Last week I attended SXSW in Austin to present a panel on “Subtle Interfaces: Designing for Calm Technology”. It was my first time at the conference and I was blown away by the scale. The largest I’d been to before was CHI with around 3000 people – this was approximately 10 times larger with around 30000 people in attendance during the Interactive half with more arriving for the following music conference/festival. Our panel was well attended, though nowhere near filling the 500 seater Salon D in the Marriott, downtown Austin. The four of us gave an overview of our work and previous projects that related to calm and subtle interaction and then after some inter-panel discussion we opened the floor to the audience and were asked some great questions. I’m editing a video of the panel, which will be up soon, in the meantime here’s the audio on SoundCloud:

The week started well with a very on topic chance meeting with Anthony Blow (@AnthonyGadgetX) who told us about Boomstakka, a “Controlled Demolition System For Construction Blocks” as shown in the video below. This is a really interesting technique, and I haven’t seen anything quite like it before. The project gives some great thought-experiment jumping off points in relation to PhysiCAD, such as could a block placed in an unsuitable place on the model (as judged by the computer) be ejected? Or when testing the model for structural integrity, could the model just crumble, or indeed physically explode?

Another PhysiCAD related project was spotted on the trade-show floor. GridVRick is a system that allows you to create a Lego grid that controls the layout of a Sims-esque home.  Each colour of block represents a different element, for instance red equated to an outside wall and green was a sink. The computer vision method of tracking the bricks yielded the usual problems around delay due to occlusion of the blocks by the persons hands and also the camera mounted above (in this case in a large canopy) which means that you end up resting your head on the case to get a better view (as shown below).


There was also an interesting talk from the designer of Iron Man’s heads up display, followed by a demonstration of the Meta augmented reality glasses: