Sunday, December 2, 2012

ReWind: MaKey MaKey and Scratch and HCI+ISE

Recently I've been thinking about (and playing with!) materials and resources broadly related to HCI (or Human Computer Interface) matters.  So, what follows below is a "ReWind" (or "encore") version of a previous ExhibiTrick post about a cool (and relatively inexpensive) system called MaKey MaKey.

In that vein, I just wanted to make you aware of two other things that fit under the broad HCI umbrella:  The first is a cool project and conference supported by the National Science Foundation that I'm an advisor to, called HCI + ISE (Human Computer Interface + Informal Science Education.)

If the thoughtful use of technology in museums and exhibits is of interest to you, check out the HCI+ISE website, and apply to attend the conference in June 2013 in, and around, Albuquerque.

The second thing may be a bit of "old news" to some folks, but it's new to me!  Scratch is a simple programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the Web.  Scratch was developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.  I've just started working with Scratch myself and working on exhibit development and prototyping projects with kids and it's really been productive and fun!  I'll be writing a more in-depth ExhibiTricks post on Scratch in the future, but in the meantime, enjoy this ReWind post about MaKey MaKey!

I was a Kickstarter backer of a neat project called MaKey MaKey.  In exchange for backing the MaKey MaKey guys (two MIT Media Lab students) I received a set of stuff like that pictured below (a MaKey MaKey board, a USB connector, and a set of alligator clips) to connect my computer to the real world with real objects (like bananas, PlayDoh, coins, or anything else that is at least a little bit conductive.)

Basically you can make a physical object act like a computer key (hence MaKey MaKey) to cause other things to happen. Watching the video at the top of this post (you can also watch it on YouTube) gives you some fun examples like an electronic piano using bananas as keys.

This is all great news for exhibit designers who don't want to become computer geeks or code monkeys.  (Even though the MaKey MaKey board is built using Arduino, an open-source way of connecting computers with the physical world.)  The idea of using physical objects as HCI (Human Computer Interfaces) isn't new, but MaKey MaKey makes it much easier and cheaper than before.  In addition,  MaKey MaKey boards are a great tool for prototyping exhibit ideas that involve electronics, computers, or other digital media.

You can find out more about any of the groups or things mentioned in this post by clicking on any of the links above, but for now I'm off to start playing with my MaKey MaKey!  (I'll show off some of my own MaKey MaKey projects in future ExhibiTricks posts, or feel free to email me if you're doing cool stuff with MaKey MaKey that you'd like to share as well!)

P.S. Even if you weren't a Kickstarter backer of MaKey Makey, you can pre-order a basic kit via their website.

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