The Column: Human-Interface Device for control of Digital & Physical EnvironmentsThe Column is a human-interface device for control of digital and physical environments. It can manipulated by rolling or twisting and also allows for the movement of content between different digital surfaces (i.e. moving slides from a monitor to a projector) within the greater context of the physical environment.

Why did we create The Column?

Current human-interface input devices are highly specific and bounded by medium (i.e. mouse for computer use while seated, on-device dial/knob for fan/blinds/lights, remote-clicker for presenting slides [application specific standing-computer-use], un-situated on-wall control of heating/cooling, etc).

As IoT (Internet of Things) devices become more integrated into our lives and the divide between digital and physical environments continues to blur, we believe new forms of control that better allow transition-ing between environments and use-cases will be necessary.

The Column is our first stab at a device that sketches potential interactions in two important and evolving spaces: non-specific control of physical and digital environments and movement of content between environments.

Design Process

For our second project, we were tasked with creating prototypes to test our ideas about environments. Specifically, we were asked to design and prototype interactions that would move us towards the the studio of the future.

As we continued to prototype, one inspiration was particularly critical: the Sam Flynn vs. Rinzler battle from Tron Legacy. During the battle, Rinzler is controlled by Clue with the upmost elegance and precision. The human-interface Clue uses is simply a pair of orbs which he swirls around in his hand. This is in contrast, for example, to the body-suit interfaces Jaeger pilots use in Pacific Rim, which are highly specific (i.e. 1:1 body interactions create similar interactions by the robot). We were extremely intrigued by the magic of Clue's interface with Rinzler—the idea that something complex (Rinzler's actions or even directions for Rinzler to carry out) could be controlled by something as simple as two orbs is incredible. The concept that one would want to fully embody their desired output in the input (the interface) is tiresome, the magic of Clue's interface is that he only has to embody very little and a great deal of output can be achieved—now that's a truly futuristic interface.

People reacted very positively to the presentation of The Column during our final crit. Some even posted snapchat stories — see below. One of our Professors, Austin Lee, can be seen providing verbal feedback in the background.

Note: the version of column presented here is a working concept for a system that is greater than what our working prototype currently enables. This project was completed in collaboration with Lucas Ochoa for Project A2 in E-Mini I, and began in collaboration with Adella Guo in Interactivity & Computation for Creative Practice for Project 09.