Interactive Design Tools for the Maker Movement
My group’s research in Human-Computer Interaction focuses on design, prototyping and implementation tools for the era of ubiquitous embedded computing and digital fabrication. We focus especially on supporting the growing ranks of amateur designers and engineers in the Maker Movement. Over the past decade, a resurgence in interest how the artifacts in our world are designed, engineered and fabricated has led to new approaches for teaching art and engineering; new methods for creating artifacts for personal use; and new models for launching hardware products. The Maker Movement is enabled by a confluence of new technologies like digital fabrication and a sharing ethos built around online tutorials and open source design files. A crucial missing building block are appropriate design tools that enable Makers to translate their intent into appropriate machine instructions – whether code or 3D prints. Makers’ expertise and work practices differ significantly from those of professional engineers – a reality that design tools have to reflect.
I will present research that enables Makers and designers to rapidly prototype, fabricate and program interactive products. Making headway in this area involves working in both hardware and software. Our group creates new physical fabrication hardware such as augmented power tools and custom CNC machines; new design software to make existing digital fabrication tools more useful; software platforms for the type of connected IoT devices many Makers are creating; and debugging tools for working at the intersection of hardware and software. We also create expertise sharing tools that lower the cost and increase the quality of online tutorials and videos through which knowledge is disseminated in this community. Our work on these tools is motivated by the daily experience of teaching and building in the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation – a 24,000 sq ft space for 21st-century design education that opened in 2015. I will give an overview of institute activities and projects, and how they inform our research agenda.