A Conversation with Actuators: An Exploratory Design Environment for Hybrid Materials
Cesar Torres, Molly Jane Nicholas, Sangyeon Lee, and Eric Paulos
An exciting, expanding palette of hybrid materials is emerging that can be programmed to actuate by a range of external and internal stimuli. However, there exists a dichotomy between the physicality of the actuators and the intangible computational signal that is used to program them. For material practitioners, this lack of physical cues limits their ability to engage in a "conversation with materials" (CwM). This paper presents a creative workstation for supporting this epistemological style by bringing a stronger physicality to the computational signal and balance the conversation between physical and digital actors. The station utilizes a streaming architecture to distribute control across multiple devices and leverage the rich spatial cognition that a physical space affords. Through a formal user study, we characterize the actuation design practice supported by the CwM workstation and discuss opportunities for tangible interfaces to hybrid materials.