Hiroshi Ishii

MIT Media Lab


Hiroshi Ishii is the Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Laboratory. After joining the Media Lab in October 1995, he founded the Tangible Media Group to make digital tangible by giving physical form to digital information and computation. Here, he pursues his visions of Tangible Bits (1997) and Radical Atoms (2012) that will transcend the Painted Bits of GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces), the current dominant paradigm of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction).

He is recognized as a founder of “Tangible User Interfaces (TUI),” a new research genre based on the CHI ’97 “Tangible Bits” paper presented with Brygg Ullmer in Atlanta, Georgia, which led to the spinoff ACM International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) from 2007. In addition to academic conferences, “Tangible Bits” was exhibited at the NTT ICC (2000) in Tokyo, Japan, at the Ars Electronica Center (2001-2003) in Linz, Austria, and many other international arts & design venues. For his Tangible Bits work, he was awarded tenure from MIT in 2001, and elected to the CHI Academy in 2006.

In 2012, he presented his new vision of “Radical Atoms” to leap beyond “Tangible Bits” by assuming a hypothetical generation of materials that can change form and properties dynamically and computationally, becoming as reconfigurable as pixels on a GUI screen. His team’s Radical Atoms works, including Shape Displays and Programmable Materials, contributed to form the new stream of “Shape-Changing UI” research in the HCI community. His “Radical Atoms” vision was selected as the overarching theme of Ars Electronica Festival 2016, with the subtitle “The Alchemists of our Time.” Ishii’s team ran a 3 year long Radical Atoms Exhibition at the Ars Electronica Center, which has been extended to run through the summer of 2019.

Ishii and his team have presented their visions of “Tangible Bits” and “Radical Atoms” at a variety of academic, design, and artistic venues (including ACM SIGCHI, ACM SIGGRAPH, Industrial Design Society of America, AIGA, Ars Electronica, ICC, Centre Pompidou, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, Milan Design Week) emphasizing that the design of engaging and inspiring tangible interactions requires the rigor of both scientific and artistic review, encapsulated by his motto, “Be Artistic and Analytic. Be Poetic and Pragmatic.”

In 2019, he won SIGCHI Lifetime Research Award for his fundamental and influential research contributions to the field of human-computer interaction in the past quarter century.

Prior to joining the MIT Media Lab, Ishii led the CSCW (Computer-Supported Cooperative Work) research group at NTT Human Interface Laboratories Japan from 1988-1994, where he and his team invented the TeamWorkStation (1990) and ClearBoard (1992). He received a B.E. degree in electronic engineering, and M.E. and Ph.D. degrees in computer engineering from Hokkaido University, Japan, in 1978, 1980 and 1992, respectively.

His greatest treasure is the email message he received from Dr. Mark Weiser in 1997 regarding his CHI ‘97 Tangible Bits paper which was on the verge of rejection.


Making Digital Tangible: The Battle Against the Pixel Empire

Today's mainstream Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research primarily addresses functional concerns – the needs of users, practical applications, and usability evaluation. Tangible Bits and Radical Atoms are driven by vision and carried out with an artistic approach. While today's technologies will become obsolete in one year, and today's applications will be replaced in 10 years, true visions – we believe – can last longer than 100 years.

Tangible Bits seeks to realize seamless interfaces between humans, digital information, and the physical environment by giving physical form to digital information and computation, making bits directly manipulatable and perceptible both in the foreground and background of our consciousness (peripheral awareness).Our goal is to invent new design media for artistic expression as well as for scientific analysis, taking advantage of the richness of human senses and skills we develop throughout our lifetime interacting with the physical world, as well as the computational reflection enabled by real-time sensing and digital feedback.

Radical Atoms leaps beyond Tangible Bits by assuming a hypothetical generation of materials that can change form and properties dynamically, becoming as reconfigurable as pixels on a screen. Radical Atoms is the future material that can transform its shape, conform to constraints, and inform the users of their affordances. Radical Atoms is a vision for the future of Human- Material Interaction, in which all digital information has a physical manifestation, thus enabling us to interact directly with it.

I will present the trajectory of our vision-driven design research from Tangible Bits towards Radical Atoms, illustrated through a variety of interaction design projects that have been presented and exhibited in Media Arts, Design, and Science communities. These emphasize that the design for engaging and inspiring tangible interactions requires the rigor of both scientific and artistic review, encapsulated by my motto, “Be Artistic and Analytic. Be Poetic and Pragmatic.”

Marianna Obrist

University College London


Marianna Obrist is Professor of Multisensory Interfaces at UCL (University College London), Department of Computer Science. Her research ambition is to establish touch, taste, and smell as interaction modalities in human-computer interaction (HCI). Before joining UCL, Marianna was Professor of Multisensory Experiences at the School of Engineering and Informatics at the University of Sussex, where she established the the Sussex Computer Human Interaction (SCHI ‘sky’) Lab. Her research is mainly supported through an ERC starting grant. Before Marianna moved to the UK with a Marie Curie Fellow at Newcastle University, she was Assistant Professor at the University of Salzburg, Austria. Marianna is an inaugural member for the ACM Future of Computing Academy and was selected Young Scientist 2017 and 2018 to attend the World Economic Forum in the People’s Republic of China. She is co-founder of OWidgets LTD, a University start-up that is enabling the design of novel olfactory experiences. She has recently been appointed as a Visiting Professor at the Burberry Material Futures Research Group at RCA London and was a Visiting Professor at the HCI Engineering Group at MIT CSAIL in summer 2019. For more details see: http://www.multisensory.info



Multisensory Experiences: Beyond Audio-Visual Interfaces

Multisensory experiences, that is, experiences that involve more than one of our senses, are part of our everyday life. However, we often tend to take them for granted, at least when our different senses function normally (normal sight functioning) or are corrected-to-normal (using glasses). However, closer inspection to any, even the most mundane experiences, reveals the remarkable sensory world in which we live in. While we have built tools, experiences and computing systems that have played to the human advantages of hearing and sight (e.g., signage, modes of communication, visual and musical arts, theatre, cinema and media), we have long neglected the opportunities around touch, taste, or smell as interface/interaction modalities. Within this talk, I will share my vision for the future of computing and what role touch, taste, and smell can play in it.

Stéphanie Fleck

University of Lorraine


Associate professor at the University of Lorraine – PERSEUS lab. France, Stephanie Fleck is specialist in Learning Sciences and Human-Computer Interaction. She explores the potential of technologies such as Tangible User Interfaces (TUI), Augmented Reality (AR), Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) to improve the learning of abstract, so-called intangible, concepts or skills such as optical phenomena, physiological functions, clustering tasks, self-regulation or kinesthetic motor imagination, etc. She develops design and assessment methodologies, and hybrid pedagogical supports with the overall objective to explore how new technologies could enhance human learning and development. She is also teacher trainer in Sciences and Technology, didactics of Sciences, HCI and instructional design. She is responsible of the MASTER’s degree “instructional design and educational engineering”.


Tangible learning: Design and evaluation of hybrid environments for human learning and fulfilment

Learning requires the construction or questioning of personal knowledge, skills and/or attitudes. This often requires the learner to go beyond appearances, to grasp abstract notions. Unfortunately, sometimes these are only obvious to those who already know. This presentation will introduce you to the design and evaluation of hybrid devices targeted to promote and better understand the development of knowledge, skills and of a positive learning experience.

Domenico Prattichizzo

University of Siena


Domenico is Professor of Robotics at the University of Siena, Senior Scientist at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genova, Fellow of the IEEE society and Co-founder of the startup WEART, a startup for VR and AR applications. Since Jan. 2020 he is the Editor in Chief of IEEE Transactions on Haptics. Human and robotic hands together with the art of manipulating real and virtual objects have always polarized his research that has recently focused on wearable haptics, VR/AR and wearable robotics. He founded the SIRSLab where he has been leading an extraordinary and enthusiastic research team for years. From 2013 to 2017 he has been the overall coordinator of the strategic project “ WEARHAP: wearable haptics for humans and robots ” founded by the European Community with applications on virtual and augmented realities and to collaborative robotics. In 2010 he co-ordinated the project on “REMOTOUCH: remote touch” tactile communication, selected for the presentation at Expo Shangai 2010 under the initiative of “Italia degli Innovatori” promoted by the Ministry of Innovation. Awarded in 2014 with the MathWorks Education Award. In 2017, in Phoenix, his project “the Robotics Sixth Finger” was selected among the best innovative projects at the Wearable Robotics Association Conference, wearRAcon. He has held many plenary talks on robotics, including the most recent at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (2016) and the International Conference on Asia Haptics (2017) where he won the award for his research activities in virtual reality. He has been selected among the best two Cross-Cutting Challenges Initiatives at the IEEE Haptic Symposium 2018 in San Francisco with the theme “The path to intelligent clothes and objects able to change the way we communicate with the world”. Author of more than 300 scientific articles in the field of robotics and virtual reality.


Highly wearable haptic interfaces for novel interaction between humans and machines

Wearable haptics and wearable sensorimotor interfaces are emerging research trends that will enable novel forms of communication and cooperation between humans and robots. The literature on wearable haptics has been mainly focused on vibrotactile stimulation and only recently wearable devices conveying richer stimuli, like multidimensional skin deformations, have been proposed. In this keynote, I will introduce design guidelines for wearable haptics and will review our research in this field. When wearable haptics meets wearable robotics, the paradigm shift in human-robot cooperation is extraordinary, as it is for the robotic sixth finger, a wearable supernumerary limb designed for rehabilitating the function of the paretic human hand. The robotic extra finger, i.e. the supernumerary limb, and the paretic hand act like the two parts of a gripper working together to stabilize the grasp of objects and let the subject, with upper limb impairments, to use both hands in bimanual tasks. The wearable robotic extra finger works together with a wearable haptic device playing the role of a sensorimotor interface augmenting the level of embodiment of the device. This is a case of synergistic use of wearable haptics and wearable robotics to support people with impairments in everyday life.

Tanja Döring

University of Bremen


Tanja Döring is a senior researcher in the Digital Media Lab at the University of Bremen. Her research focuses on human-computer interaction (HCI) and materiality, digital fabrication and novel interaction techniques including tangible, gestural, and mobile  interaction. Tanja serves as chair of the steering committee of the German Tangible Interaction Group (GI Fachgruppe Be-greifbare Interaktion), in program committees (e.g. ACM CHI, ACM TEI or  “Mensch und Computer”) and as reviewer for international journals  and conferences. Her PhD thesis about a materials perspective on HCI was awarded with the dissertation award for excellent results in researching computer  science applications in social systems by the GI CSCW & Social Computing group and the international institute for socio-informatics. She is one of the co-founders and steering committee  members of the Fab Lab Fabulous St. Pauli in Hamburg (Germany).  From April 2008 to October 2011, she was a research associate at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Tanja Döring studied computer  science and art history at the University of Hamburg (Germany) and the University of Valladolid  (Spain) and graduated with a German Diplom in Computer Science from the University of Hamburg.


Tangible Interaction and Materiality

Among the potentials of tangible  user interfaces is their rich materiality that can shape sensory  and meaningful experiences as well as offer novel functionalities. New  physical-digital types of materials and new material-centered application fields such as personal fabrication arise that demand for novel terminology, approaches and design knowledge. These  developments lead to the situation that human-computer interaction as a discipline needs to better  understand how materials shape interactions on a micro and a  macro level and how this  knowledge can be applied in order to design appropriate, engaging and meaningful interactions. In this talk, I will give an overview on evolving themes that focus on materiality  and interaction and present  examples for tangible interaction, including prototypes with advanced, everyday and ephemeral materials.