Though we live in the era of the touchscreen (tablet PCs and smart phones providing a rigid and flat interface) people and the industry are getting excited about the world of tangible 3D interfaces. This may be explained for two reasons: first, the emergence of cheap vision-based gestural interfaces conquering the space above and below the screen (but without haptic feedback), and second – and perhaps more important for the present discussion – the explosion of the 3D printing industry and the possibility for the end user to not only customise the layout of icons on a screen, but also of designing their own physical, deformable interface from scratch. Mass-produced smartphones could then be seen as bare-bone electronics devices whose shape can be physically augmented, personalised and crafted. Now, in order to introduce DIY techniques in the world of deformable input-output interfaces, it is necessary to provide a generic manufacturing/sensing method for such arbitrarily designed shapes. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate a minimally invasive method (i.e. no wiring) to physically augment rigid tablet PCs or smartphones. By putting a deformable object over the front or rear camera – this ‘object’ can be part of the smartphone case itself – and by making the inside of the object partially transparent, the complex light reflections can be used to recognise patterns of deformation/grasping and map them to different UI actions. A machine learning algorithm allows object shape and deformation to be designed arbitrarily, bringing the device physical personalisation at a level never reached before, with minimal interference with its original hardware.

Credits: Ishikawa Senoo Laboratory 2014


Chihiro Watanabe, Alvaro Cassinelli, Yoshihiro Watanabe, and Masatoshi Ishikawa. 2014. Generic method for crafting deformable interfaces to physically augment smartphones. In CHI ’14 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1309-1314. DOI=

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