Reaction to Physical Computing’s Greatest Hits (and Misses)

Reading Tom Igoe’s “Greatest Hits” article┬áreinforces the point that it isn’t so much about what form of interaction you choose, but the idea behind the interaction. Ideas give meaning to technology: they turn a bunch of pressure sensors on a glove to into a portable drum kit or a networked LED into a remote hug. Ideas don’t care about how you make things: when you can describe the idea without even mentioning what sensor you’re using or what neat trick you used to hook everything together, users can fully connect with your project and experience it on a more meaningful level.

So what makes it so compelling to categorize all these different forms of interaction? When you put the technology first, users are going to see the technology first. As the world of physical computing continues to grow, more people will look at the touch glove and recognize it as “another drum glove project” or the networked LED as “another remote hug project.” Of course this is not to say nobody should do those projects: they are well documented, meaning they have a great potential to be learned from and developed with a strong idea. But for big projects, it does mean they need to be pushed and they need to have a “reason to be” beyond a desire to play around with the technology.