Spring 2018 - IAT 882 G100

Special Topics II (3)

Tangible Computing

Class Number: 12983

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    SUR 5320, Surrey



Special Topics - Tangible Computing


The course covers the historical and current research agenda for a broadly defined class of computing systems which rely on natural interaction forms including: direct physical interaction, embodied interaction and embedded interaction and utilize interactive technologies including sensing systems, computer vision, reasoning engines and multimodal displays. The course is designed as a content area course for students interested in the design, prototyping and evaluation of tangibles, interactive surfaces, embedded systems or interactive environments. It will not cover mobile devices or large display environments. The course has two main aims: 1. To familiarize students with and help them critically analyze the history, foundations, agendas, issues, research methods and current and critical research projects and papers in the broadly defined area of tangible, embodied and embedded computing. 2. To provide the opportunity to develop hands-on technical skills in prototyping simple sensor or camera vision based systems in order to explore simple, topical research questions.

Who should take this course

Graduate students in Interactive Arts and Technology, Psychology, Sociology, Computing, Communications, Engineering, Education, or Contemporary Arts.

Pre-requisites and course enrolment

Students should have an introductory course in research methods and/or research design. Students will benefit from having completely a foundational multimedia programming computation course (e.g., java, processing) such as IAT 800 and/or a design methods course such as IAT 832 Exploring Interaction. However, neither of these courses are prerequisites. Students interested in tangible, surface, embedded or interactive environments will benefit from having clearly defined research questions for their thesis work in place.


The overall learning goals for the course are for students to understand and be able to discuss the main philosophical, cognitive, social and technical influences in the field of tangible, embodied and embedded computing, to be able to analyze and critique current research in the field and develop the technical skills to build simple research prototypes. Understand and be able to explain the historical development of research in tangible, embodied and embedded computing. Understand and be able to explain the main taxonomies and key research projects which have defined the current state of research in tangible, embodied and embedded computing. Be able to critically analyze the research methods and results of a variety of tangible, embodied and embedded computing projects found in published conference and journal proceedings. Be able to develop and apply a set of criteria to choose a particular research approach to creating new knowledge in tangible, embodied and embedded computing. Be able to design and implement a simple prototype which addresses specific research question(s). Be able to propose and design viable and rigorous research study which focuses on evaluating human use of tangible, embodied or embedded technology.


This course builds a foundation for research in new forms of interaction and new styles of interfaces by providing an introduction to origins and development of tangible computing as a representative class of a new interactive technology. This foundation will be used to analyze taxonomies, issues, explore theoretical underpinnings and analyze critical and innovative research in tangible computing and related fields. Students will have the opportunity to plan, design and build a simple research prototype that addresses a single theoretical or applied research question in tangible computing. Students will also create an argument for the features of that prototype that make it a suitable instrument to conduct research that addresses that question, and write a design rationale, argumentive style short paper.


IAT 884 Educational Goals Educational Goals for IAT 884 (SIAT Graduate Program)
A. Research, Scholarship and/or Creative Production Students will be able to:
 Master the substantive constituents of the chosen field of knowledge and/or creative practice [wrt Tangible Computing and Embodied Interaction]
 Identify and conduct independent and original research, scholarship and/or creative practice
 Draw from and apply scholarly and artistic reference material
B. Methodological Tools and Processes Students will be able to:
 Conduct their work using research methodological tools and processes appropriate to their disciplinary and/or interdisciplinary field;
 Use iterative and integrative creative methods and processes where appropriate
C. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Oral and Written Communication and Dissemination Students will be able to:
 Think critically and creatively, and identify and solve problems in their field of study.
 Demonstrate excellent communication skills in their field of study through scholarly writing, creative exhibitions and presentations. [ACM short paper]
D. Technical proficiency Students will be able:
 To demonstrate their computational literacy through the use of a programming language and/or electronic prototyping frameworks [wrt physical-digital prototypes]
 Choose and use technical tools and processes appropriate to their field of research and/or creative production.




This section particularly is in draft form and is subject to change.
Self-lead workshop exercises 20%
In class presentation 10%
Demonstration of working research prototype 30%
Paper submission to ACM TEI 2017 (short or long) or alternative 40%



Each student will be supplied with a basic tangible computing prototyping kit.


"Physical Computing:  Sensing & Controlling the Physical World with Computers" (2004) by Tom Igoe & Dan O'Sullivan; 1st Edition; Course Technology PTR;
ISBN: 9781592003464

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html