Adaptable objects.

Some reflections around the seminar led by Gearóid Mullins, Rachael Garrett, Billy Verlinden & Shane Cunningham.


One of the concepts that I found most interesting during the class, was the one stated by the American Professor Neil Gershenfeld: “The revolution is not additive versus subtractive manufacturing; it is the ability to turn data into things and things into data.” (Gershenfeld, 2012)

We can date that revolution around 1952, when researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), designed a first computer system to control a milling machine; Since then the translation data – objects has become increasingly sophisticated.
For instance, since 2012 “The Tangible Media Group”, led by Professor Hiroshi Ishii, have been working on their vision designated as “Radical atoms”, in which fundamentally materials can change their form, arranging their constraints and establishing their own affordances. Something that they have called MUI “Material User Interface”.

This research area opens many doors on interactive design, especially from the perspective of mutability. If we consider an object that can be dynamic which means that its properties are not established a priori, this forces us to rethink the logic of creation.

Let us take the example from the typical stages in the process of interaction design, (depending on the author may be different)*, that we can summarise as research, design, prototype, test and its subsequent iteration. If the object changes, in other words, if its properties can adapt to the user’s needs, perhaps learning from it; The phases of design, test and prototyping acquires a new significance since they could even be merged. The concept of UCD (User Centred Design) changes as well, to the extent that the user becomes the designer since it is transformed according to their interests. But also the designer’s role moves beyond because its work goes ahead the possibilities initially proposed, creating systems rather than objects, capable of adapting.
* There are several interaction models. Summarising some of them:
-The Winston Royce (1970) interaction model was composed of five stages: Requirement analysis, design, code, test and maintenance.
-Barry Boehm’s model (1988) was a spiral model, consisting of several tasks and analysis.
-The model proposed by the interaction design foundation contains five stages: empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test.

-Gershenfeld, N. (2012) How to Make Almost Anything
The Digital Fabrication Revolution. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2017).

-Tangible media group (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2017).

-Dam, R.F. (2017) 5 stages in the design thinking process. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2017).


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