Bits are cheap, atoms are expensive: Reflecting on the physical turn in HCI and why interactive hardware is still hard

Wednesday 9th November 2022

Abstract:In the field of human-computer interaction, a number of influential visions have inspired researchers to make interaction with digital information richer, more sensual, and better integrated in the real world. Examples of such visions include ubiquitous and pervasive computing, as well as tangible, embedded and embodied interfaces. However, while the impact in the research community has been extensive, there are not as many examples of physical or embodied interfaces in the consumer domain as one would expect. The reasons for this relative lack of real-world impact are complex, but ultimately can be summarised as bits are cheap, atoms are expensive – to create; control; modify; maintain; mass-produce; and distribute. Finally, I will point the way to a novel paradigm that might combine the advantages of bits and atoms, called Liberated Pixels.

Bio: Lars Erik Holmquist is Professor of Innovation at the School of Design, Northumbria University where he leads the Connected Experiences Lab. He has worked at universities and industry labs in Sweden, USA, Japan and UK. His research areas include mobile applications, ubiquitous computing, information visualisation and immersive experiences.