Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Michael A. Eisenberg

Second Advisor

Ellen Yi-Luen Do

Third Advisor

Andrzej Ehrenfeucht

Fourth Advisor

Mark D. Gross

Fifth Advisor

Clayton Lewis

Abstract

The role of computational media in design and construction has long been a subject of active research and exploration. Many of the efforts in this area have involved the creation of sophisticated "stand-alone" applications - for writing, music composition, graphics, and so forth - that act as the primary (or sole) construction tool used by the creative designers. At the same time, not all creative design takes place in front of a computer screen: in many domains, there is a recurring and abiding role for work with physical materials, for exploration "by hand", which enables us to directly observe and respond to our activities. This thesis proposes a research project on a tangible user interface (TUI) and interactive system called Easigami for creating geometric forms by folding, specifically polyhedra and rigid origami models. Easigami is a physical and digital construction kit. Its physical interface is a reconfigurable system of thin flat polygon pieces which can be connected by electronically instrumented hinges. Easigami, in its design, uses a novel physical input device to assist in creating small folded "modules". The software then combines these modules in a variety of ways on the screen, allowing the user to perform a sort of "virtual exploration" of what might be constructed with these modules. Easigami thus acts as an exemplar of a type of design tool that combines, in a principled way, physical sketching and construction with sophisticated algorithmic exploration. This hybrid feature intends to take advantage of both physical and digital worlds. In addition, this thesis reports the findings from initial user studies with college students as well as children. The study of the development process of several Easigami prototypes in this work will enable this thesis to document the experience in integrating traditional craft with computation, which will inform future tangible and graspable user interface design.

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