Tangible, embedded and embodied interaction (text)

ASU hosts top-tier international conference

Scroll Down

Computers are no longer just computers. From smart clothing that can track your heart rate to Wii gaming systems that mirror your movements, computing is embedded into the everyday environment – changing the relationship between humans and computers. Tangible, embedded and embodied interaction explores the interaction between humans and these computational objects within the physical world, looking at the implications and future possibilities. Artists, engineers, designers, scientists and other researchers from around the world visited the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts in March to share their cutting-edge research in the field at the 13th annual ACM International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction, or TEI, which was hosted by the ASU School of Arts, Media and Engineering. 

This year’s theme was hybrid materials and technology, and the program covered topics in assistive technology, wearables, biometrics, on-body computing, artificial intelligence and interactive art, as well as critical and theoretical perspectives on these topics.

“TEI is a premier venue for exploring the future of tangible interaction and media art, and for critically reflecting on these trends,” said Stacey Kuznetsov, TEI general chair and assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering. “I am excited to bring this conference to ASU with leading international thinkers from academia and industry, as well as talented early-career researchers working at the forefront of tangible interaction design.”

TEI 2019 included a four-day program, with a series of five studios. Arts, Media and Engineering’s Synthesis Center hosted a TEI Studio on responsive environments at the iStage. Participants tried their hand at a variety of tangible, embodied and embedded sensing and feedback technologies and then composed some ecosystems together. 

Another studio, Designing Interactive Olfactory Experience in Real Context and Applications, organized by Mei Kei Lai of the School of Arts at Macao Polytechnic Institute and Yan Yan Cao of Keio University, explored the design of novel olfactory experiences. Olfactory experience invites a new type of storytelling in embodied interaction, and this studio focused on the experiential approach of designing interactive smell-based experience in real world contexts. For example, interaction with smells can be used to enhance family bonding through scents that are related to family events and memories. Or a hotel could create an interaction scenario in the lounge by using digital diffusers to prompt positive feelings. Olfactory interactions can also be used in art, game play and more. 

Other represented institutions included Microsoft Research, New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, Virginia Tech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT Media Lab, Carnegie Mellon University, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Calgary, Zurich University of the Arts, UC Berkeley and KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

People gathering into main conference room
man sitting in chair with VR headset on, while an ASU staff member sets up the program on the computer
Two people using Re-twist - a digitally augmented version of the traditional game

Art and performances at TCA


The conference also featured an Arts and Performance Track at the Tempe Center for the Arts. The evening included an exhibition of 12 art installations, followed by six live performances exploring hybridity on the TCA Theatre Stage. 

A team from ASU, led by Jennifer Weiler, Piyum Fernando, Todd Ingalls and Kuznetsov, presented Lithobox: Creative Practice at the Intersection of Craft and Technology. Lithobox is a system that translates the traditional ceramic and lighting technique of lithophanes into a means of creating illuminated 3D models through a creative approach that utilizes both digital and tangible construction. The team worked with artists to explore how the Lithobox fabrication impacted the way artists manifest design ideas and engage in creative exploration in crafting. Following discussions at the conference and feedback, the team plans to research the benefits of integrating digital technology into traditional fine arts practices.

In one of the live performances, Seth Dominicus Thorn from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering presented “Transference,” a hybrid computational system for improvised violin performance that combined hardware sensors, digital signal processing and acoustic input. In another piece, two dancers explored virtual and physical worlds with the audience in a mixed-reality performance.

The production of TEI’s Arts and Performance track was led by Shahabedin Sagheb and Kimberlee Swisher from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering in collaboration with Luke Kautz, Caroline Fernandez, Daniel Jackson and Peter Weisman.

“TEI is one of the most prominent conferences in the world of hybridizing design, engineering and the art and science of embodied, enactive approaches to experience,” Sha Xin Wei, director of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, said when ASU was selected as the site for the 2019 conference. “This win is a testament to the team as well as to ASU.”

man speaks into microphone that interacts with small device on table
woman performs on drums with digital components
two men interact with "After Words" sound installation
Seth Thorn performing “Transference,” a hybrid computational system for improvised violin performance

“TEI is one of the most prominent conferences in the world of hybridizing design, engineering and the art and science of embodied, enactive approaches to experience.”

Sha Xin Wei, director, School of Arts, Media and Engineering

Recent sites of the conference include Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Keio University in Japan and Stockholm University in Sweden.
The conference was sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery and supported by the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Synthesis Center, SANDS (Social and Digital Systems Group), Seeed Studio, the Center for Philosophical Technologies and the Center for Science and the Imagination.
Photos by Tim Trumble, Aehong Min and Cyn Liu