Physical Interaction

Interactivity has an immense power on us. Using it can enable one to create an immersive reaction on the other.

My definition for interaction is a feedback loop between two or more objects. Furthermore, In order to have a physical interaction both objects should be at the same space and each need to have a 3D representation. Chris Crawford argues that there are three necessary elements in order to have interaction between two actors, they have to “listen, think and speak”. In my opinion this use of words is insufficient. My main problem is with the word “speak” since it is mostly refers to humans. I argue that interaction is a broader concept. For example, I interact with my cats even when they’re not MYAWing at me (=“speaking”). Our body language creates and enables interaction between humans, animals and even objects. This type of interaction is much more intuitive in my mind. Therefore, I would rather choose the words input, processing and output (which where later on mentioned by Crawford in his book).

While defining “Physical Interaction” I came across the “refrigerator example” that bothered me at first. When one opens the refrigerator the light goes on and when one closes the door it turns off. Does it counts as interaction? According to my definition — YES. Crawford offered a solution for that – a scale of interactivity. According to Crawford’s scale, the refrigerator example represents low interactivity because one would not repeat this action over and over. However, using a scale raises a different problem – some can define the same activity with different scales of interactivity, and then interaction becomes a subjective definition.

I believe that interactivity is a binary phenomenon (either there is an interaction or not). What amplifies the feedback loops and makes the interaction last is interest. If, for example, every time that we will open the refrigerator a different light will turn on it is plausible that opening and closing the door would be repeated over and over.

Despite of the importance of “interest”, it is not sufficient. In order to evoke interaction, a feedback loop must be formed. The same event can be count as either a digital technology which is not interactive or as a physical interaction. A good example for that is a sport game – it depends if the spectator is in the same space with the players or not. If the spectator watches the game on TV he/she has no ability to influence its course, therefor it is not interactive. However, if the spectator is physically present at the game his/her participation can be very powerful on the athletic performance. For example:

However, when we imagine the future interaction physical interactivity steps aside and the word “interactivity” is mostly joint with the image of digital technology. The popular vision of the future contains more advanced smartphones, computers or as Bret Victor’s defines it – Pictures Under Glass. This vision doesn’t seem very imaginative, and ignores future physical interactions.

Victor’s main claim is that “Pictures Under Glass sacrifice all the tactile richness of working with our hands, offering instead a hokey visual facade”. He believes that our future interaction must contain a variety of functions we can do with our hands. Moreover, I believe that we should expend our usage of other parts of the human body and also use our body language as inputs. Creating an object which can also initiate the interaction will be taking it one step further.

Categories: Physical Computing

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