Human-Computer Interaction Institute
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


The Human Body as an Interactive Computing Platform

Chris Harrison

December 2013

Ph.D. Thesis


Keywords: Human-Computer Interaction,User Interfaces, Mobile Devices, Input Techniques, Touchscreens, Gestures, Sensors, Bio-Acoustics, Computer Vision, Ubiquitous Computing Appropriated Surfaces, On-Body Computing

Despite their small size, mobile devices are able to perform tasks of creation, information and communication with unprecedented ease. However, diminutive screens and buttons mar the user experience, and otherwise prevent us from realizing the full potential of computing on the go. In this dissertation, I will first discuss strategies I have pursued to expand and enrich interaction. For example, fingers have many "modes" – they do not just poke, as contemporary touchscreen interaction would suggest, but also scratch, flick, knock, rub, and grasp, to name a few. I will then highlight an emergent shift in computing: from mobile devices we carry to using everyday surfaces for interaction, including tables, walls, furniture and even our skin, bringing computational power ever closer to users. This evolution brings significant new challenges in sensing and interaction design. For example, the human body is not only incredibly irregular and dynamic, but also comes in more than six billion different models. However, along with these challenges also come exciting new opportunities for more powerful, intuitive and intimate computing experiences.

145 pages

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