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Physical Computing Studio

Spring 2006

Instructor: Tom Igoe
Tues, 3:30 PM - 6 PM
Office Hours: Mon, Wed, Thur 4 PM - 6 PM. email me to set up an appointment in advance, please.
Any changes will be posted on my weekly schedule

This course is an environment for students to work on project ideas that may fall outside the topic areas of existing classes. This particular studio is focused on projects involving extended physical interaction. Students are expected to present a project description on the first day of class. They work together with the class and the instructor to develop a production plan for their project. Weekly class meetings consist of critique and feedback sessions on individual and group projects, and breakout sessions with students working individually or in groups with people working on similar projects. As technical topics of general interest emerge, the instructor takes class time to cover them. Students are expected to show their projects multiple times during the semester, test the projects in stages, and get feedback from both class members in class and from the audience for whom their projects are intended, outside of class.

Class 1: Jan 17

Introductions, speed dating style. Everyone will explain their project to everyone else in 2-3 minute chunks. Then we'll introduce each other's projects to the class, also in 2-3 minute chunks.


  • Take notes on the introduction, prepare a correction for next week.
  • Sign up for two days of shop cleaning.
  • Choose partners. You'll have your partner for the entire semester. Their job will be to take notes whenever you're presenting or getting critique, to work with you as your second in group assignments. Tell me who your partner is before next class. I will pair up any unpartnered people next week.

Class 2: Jan 24

Brainstorming Exercises.

Class 3: Jan 31

Re-introductions. Describe your project to the class. Explain what the project is and why you want to do it. Explain who the project is intended for. If it's a time-limited experience, tell us how long it will take to experience the project, on average. Present sketches, initial prototypes, interaction narratives, or flowcharts as necessary to explain to the class what will happen.

Class 4: Feb 7
Substitute Teacher: Luke Dubois (Tom in Oslo)

Critique and assistance. If there are specific techniques you need to know about for your project, or unresolved questions you'd like to bring up with the class, this is the time to do it. Bring in what you have done so far, so we have something to begin the discussion.

Class 5: Feb 14

Critique and assistance. If there are specific techniques you need to know about for your project, or unresolved questions you'd like to bring up with the class, this is the time to do it. Bring in what you have done so far, so we have something to begin the discussion.

Class 6: Feb 21

Group work. For the next three weeks, each of you will be given a team of people from the class. We'll focus on six projects per week. You'll have 90 minutes to get the team to work for you on your project. Plan out what you need them to do for you. You can have them do research on how to realize the project. You can have them program, or build with you. You can have them try prototypes you've built, and respond in depth with comments. Whatever you need them to do now is fair game, as long as you summarize the team's work and how it's advanced your project at the end of the 90 minutes.

At the end of the 90 minutes, we-ll re-assemble and you'll summarize what your team achieved, and what's to be done next. 10 minutes per team report.

Your team will rotate roles through the next three weeks, so keep in mind that whoever you're assisting in one week will be assisting you the next week.

Class 7: Feb 28

Group Work week 2

Class 8: Mar. 7

Group Work week 3

Mar. 14 Spring Break

Class 9: Mar. 21

Class Testing. For these two weeks, you'll present your project for your classmates to experience. We'll focus on 9 projects per week. Your role in these tests is not to tell them how to do anything, but to give them basic instructions and observe what they do. You and your partner should take notes on what happens. Prepare a list of questions or a comment sheet you want people to fill out after the experience. If your work is not interactive, then use the testing time to get feedback on people's reactions to your work in whatever form it takes.

Testers, your role is to participate. Don't comment until and unless you've participated. Don't comment on what could have been done, comment on what actually happened. Note when there was a clear relationship between what you did and what the system did, and when it was unclear. Talk about what you interpreted the system's behaviors to mean, what you were prompted to do, and what it did in response to your actions.

Class 10: Mar. 28

Class Testing week 2.

Class 11: Apr 4

Project critique and assistance.

Class 12: Apr 11

Project critique and assistance.

Class 13: Apr 18

Final Presentations week 1. Order of final presentations will be assigned in advance.

Class 14: Apr 25

Final Presentations week 2


Grading in this class is based on the consistency of your progress, the presentation of your work and ideas, and on the quality of your assistance to your fellow students. This class works best when you are as engaged with your fellow students' work in class as you are with your own. Conversely, you get the most help and the best quality feedback when you give it the best.

A studio class is a place for practice. in this class, that means you'll be practicing physical interaction design,and getting feedback on that practice. In other words, don't expect to present on any given week if you don't have anything to show. Once we're past the initial couple of weeks, your ideas should always be backed up with examples of progress on your work.

Please be in class and ready to begin on time. Please turn your mobile phone off or on vibrate before class. If you need to leave early, come late, or be absent, please let me know in advance if at all possible.

Laptop use is permitted if you're taking notes for your partner or yourself, or if you're doing something related to the discussion. However, if you disappear from the discussion behind your screen, I will ask you to close it and expect you to re-join the class.

You are most likely already documenting your work in this class online for another class. If not, you'll be expected to keep a documentation site (blog, wiki, basic HTML) and to send me the URL. No flash-only or other non-text-searchable forms, please.