School of Interactive Arts & Technology, Technology & Society

Alissa Antle studies how we can use innovative, interactive technologies to improve children’s emotional development.

Celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science

May 06, 2020

A professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), Alissa Antle is an innovator and scholar whose research pushes the boundaries of computation to augment the ways we think and learn. As a designer and builder of interactive technologies, she explores how these innovations can improve, augment and support children’s cognitive and emotional development. Many of her projects involve tangible technology. For example, Phonoblocks is a set of 3D letters and a tablet interface that work together to help dyslexic children learn to read. Youtopia helps children learn about sustainability as they work together using a digital tabletop to design their own land-use plan. And with Mind-Full, a tablet app, children learn to self-regulate anxiety.

As part of the c̓əsnaʔəm: The City Before the City exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver, Antle created ʔeləw̓k̓ʷ – Belongings with SIAT professor Kate Hennessey. The exhibit, a computer tabletop, uses tangible interaction design to teach visitors about Musqueum history and contemporary life. Visitors activate the tabletop by placing replicas of Musqueum tools on its surface This project won a Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Museums.

Alissa Antle demonstrates one of her systems to University of Maryland professor Ben Schneiderman, a founding scholar in Human Computer Interaction.

In 2015, Alissa was one of 48 scholars inducted into the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, acknowledging her as one of Canada’s intellectual leaders.

While Antle has always been driven by her curiosity and interest in people and problem-solving, she never planned to become a professor.

“Growing up, I was always interested in how things work, understanding people and creatively solving problems,” she says. “I didn’t know I would become an engineer and, later, a scientist and a professor. I just kept making choices that aligned with my curiosity and values. I never had a vision of my end-game. It emerged as a result of choices I made over time.”

Antle’s unique perspective gives her an advantage in her field, but her accomplishments haven’t always come easily.

“As a woman, a parent, and a gay person, I think I may focus on different problems and have a different perspective on solutions than normative social views. I think this is my superpower, but it hasn’t always been easy.”