Saturday, June 6, 2009

Collaboratron: an experiment in physical computing

Today is #hackday. Devon Elliott approached me about using a system called "Trackmate" to create a cool user interaction. At it's most basic level, Trackmate sends a message to your computer when an object is placed on a special platform (made out of a piece of plexiglas bought at the dollar store). We wrote a program in Processing which created a visualization that changed depending on which objects a user had put on our plexiglas platform.

In our case, we decided to use the Network in Canadian History & Environment's (NiCHE) member list as our dataset. When they signed up, each of our members were able to choose up to 45 research interest areas. The idea was that this information could be used to help people find those with like interests. Our system used a physical object to represent each of those 45 research interests. Users can put one or several of the objects on the platform and the program will create a dynamic display which will recommend potential collaborators based on the user's selections.

It's just a prototype at this point, but since today is #hackday, we thought we'd share what we've got so far. You can take a look at a video on the NiCHE website.

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