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Making technology more tactile

July 21, 2011

At LucidNYC’s event last night, I was fortunate enough to hear James Pattern talk about bringing more tactile experiences to technology.

James has been at the forefront of making tech experiences more engaging and physical for the past decade.

His inspiration came from working in the world of virtual reality and understanding how users didn’t want to be confined with restrictive helmets and gloves and from working with a DJ friend who worked with laptops where “performance” looked like checking email. James’ solution was to develop a tactile music deck where the DJ could physically move and combine sounds. This application of technology is now pretty commonplace.

Aside from working with Bjork on a robotic gravity harp for her forthcoming tour, he’s also been busy evolving the museum experience for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. His interactive periodic table allow users to physically combine elements by moving them and then “seeing” how they react.

The screen is revolutionizing how we interact with technology, but in James’ mind, this is just the start; he imagines a world where a kitchen counter is sophisticated enough for you slide you coffee cup to the coffee machine which fills it and returns it back to you.

In a world over occupied with technology, it’s easy to ignore the physical possibilities and focus on the predictable formula of keyboard input into a static screen, James Pattern shows us that this isn’t the future and that we can create interesting technological experiences that involve physical interaction and by doing this, it makes the experiences “real” and more participatory.

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