IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, May/June 2009, pp. 90–95

Frog on a computer keyboard 

Sketching Tangible Interfaces: Creating an Electronic Palette for the Design Community

by Matthew Cottam and Katie Wray

Until very recently, the typical home computer user accessed the machine’s software and processing capabilities solely through the physical interfaces of a mouse, keyboard, and monitor. Occasionally users added other physical interface peripherals for specific purposes such as gaming, but these three items have been our gateway to the computer since the late 1960s. Everyone—from software designers to industrial designers to Web site designers—relied on these elements to be the physical-interaction method that users employed to access their product.

Today, interface designers can no longer assume that the interaction between a user and a digital interface occurs only, or most effectively, through traditional devices such as keyboards, mice, and number pads. Tangible interfaces and ubiquitous-computing technologies are changing the human relationship to computing technology, and designers must take this into account when creating products and services.

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