From the dawn of the industrial revolution and establishment of mass production the world has been fixed and immutable. The objects and devices around us were designed by engineers, manufactured in factories, sold in stores and brought to our homes and offices to serve the purpose that they had been made for. Our roles were that of passive consumers.
Recently, however, we have come to expect that our objects and environments are interactive, engaging and hackable anytime and anywhere. We are no longer passive consumers. With new rapid prototyping tools, open source software, readily available sensors and microprocessors, novel materials, 3D printers and printed electronics our world can be hacked, twisted, connected, re-connected and extended with functionality that it is not supposed to have. We can make living plants play digital music and human bodies transmit sound, we can build touch screens on water, extend our world by 3D printing whatever we need, create virtual objects that we can feel in free air with bare hands and produce electrical energy from ordinary paper. Everyday physical objects, both living and artificial, and entire environments can be made interactive, responsive and digital. Never before in our collective history have we as individuals had so much power to re-make the world around us, enhance it with new experiences and functionalities that educate, delight, entertain and make our lives better in countless ways. And most of them are yet to be invented.
In this talk I will look back at the relation of digital technology and physical world, speculate about it’s future and discuss some of the recent explorations that myself and my group have been conducting in merging digital computing and physical environments. Some of the topics include new technologies for tactile augmentation, free-air haptics, deformable and compliant computers, ad-hoc sensor augmentation, biologically inspired interfaces, energy harvesting and others. The talk will cover both early projects that I conducted at Sony Corporation and current research efforts by the Interaction Group at Disney Research, Pittsburgh.
Traditionally, the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) was primarily concerned with designing and investigating interfaces between humans and machines. However, with recent technological advances the concept of "enhancing", "augmenting" or even "re-designing" humans themselves is becoming not only interesting and intriguing but also very feasible and serious topic of scientific research and development. "Augmented Human" is term that I use today to refer to this overall research direction.
Although the term “augmentation” has long been used in HCI and AR communities since Douglas Engelbert’s landmark research on augmenting intelligence, I think the possibility of human augmentation is not limited to intellectual abilities and can be expound to physical abilities. I believe Augmented Human introduces a fundamental paradigm shift in HCI: from human-computer-interaction to human-computer-integration. In this talk, I will discuss rich possibilities and distinct challenges in enhancing human abilities with technology. I will introduce recent projects conducted by our research group including design and applications if wearable eye sensing for augmenting our perception and memory abilities, design of flying cameras as our external eyes, a home appliance that can increase your happiness, an organic physical wall/window that dynamically mediates the environment, and a human hand control system based on functional electrical stimulation.