Physical and conceptual constructions in advanced learning environments
I-BLOCKS are an innovative concept of building blocks allowing users to manipulate conceptual structures and compose atomic actions while building physical constructions. They represent an example of enabling technologies for tangible interfaces since they emphasise physicality of interaction through the use of spatial and kinaesthetic knowledge. The technology presented in this paper is integrated in physical building blocks augmented with embedded and invisible microprocessors. Connectivity and behaviour of such structures are defined by the physical connectivity between the blocks. These are general purpose, constructive, tangible user interface devices that can have a variety of applications. Unlike other approaches, I-BLOCKS do not only specify a computation that is performed by the target system but perform at the same time the computation and the associated action/functionality. Manipulating I-BLOCKS do not only mean constructing physical or conceptual structures but also composing atomic actions into complex behaviours. To illustrate this concept, the paper presents different scenarios in which the technology has been applied: storytelling performed through the construction of physical characters exhibiting emotional states, and learning activities for speech therapy in cases of dyslexia and aphasia. The scenarios are presented; discussing both the features of the technology used and the related interaction design issues. The paper concludes by reporting about informal trials that have been conducted with children. It should be noted that, even if both trials represent application scenarios for children, the I-BLOCKS technology is in principle open to different kinds of applications and target users like, for example, games for adults or brainstorming activities.
Keywords: Tangible interfaces, building blocks, active tools, distributed user interfaces, learning and play.
Published online: 06 September 2004
Cited by 8 other publications
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