As part of another project I work on, the eLabBench project, we are currently exploring how a tabletop could be used by biologists in the laboratory. Looking at how biologists work with small test tubes took us down the path of exploring different ways of providing tangible interaction with test tubes on an electronic bench. This is quite a challenging problem given the multitude of simultaneous tubes, their small size and their expendable nature. This means that traditional means like camera-based approach (shape and color recognition), fidutial markers, or active components, commonly used for tangible interaction with other objects, are not suitable for our problem. The following video was used for our participatory design scenarios; it shows the current approach (pen+paper) and illustrates our proposed solution:
The Rabbit is a device that converts the RFID tag of an object into a 2D-code that the interactive surface can read. We see the Rabbit as part of a larger set of devices dedicated to provide mediated tabletop interaction, which we illustrate with the following figure:
The mediator acts as a bridge between an object-friendly tag (like RFID) and the tabletop; it communicates the object tag, its position on the surface, its orientation, and possibly the mediator’s ID and state variables. We are exploring not only the construction of such devices, but also the new design space which they inhabit. This entry is just the beginning of this project. There will be more on this in the coming months.