Beyond the Joystick: Introduction to Alternative Physical Interfaces

his workshop series led by Eyebeam Fellow Kaho Abe is for artists, designers and hobbyists interested in starting to think about and explore alternative physical interfaces that can be used in games, toys or interactive art projects. This is a repeat of the workshop series first run earlier this summer.

Thinking beyond the traditional screen, keyboard and mouse interface, as well as the traditional gaming controller, we will utilize tools including the Arduino development system, low-tech switches and sensors to create simple custom physical interfaces to enhance the user experience. And later on in the workshop, we will learn about combining Processing with the Arduino for a richer experience. Those who have never worked with physical computing are welcome, however please make sure the prerequisite is satisfied before coming to the workshop.

This class will run from September 21–October 26. All workshops will take place at Eyebeam on Wednesday evenings, from 6:30-9PM.



Participants must come with a working Arduino development board (preferably the Arduino Uno, Duemilanove or Diecimila) and should have already set up the Arduino software on his/her laptop/computer and uploaded the Blink sketch as explained here — This is not difficult to do, so if this is your first time working with the Arduino, do not fear!

1. Arduino Development Board (Uno, Duemilanove or Diecimila) *
2. Breadboard *
3. Jumper wire set *
4. USB cable to connect Arduino to a laptop/computer *†
5. Your laptop with Arduino software already set up (there are very limited numbers of computers available if you do not have a laptop)

* If you don’t have any of the material above, the Budget Pack for Arduino [] from Adafruit is highly recommended.

† We have a limited number of computers available for use. Please e-mail me at least 2 days in advance if you need to have a computer set up for the workshop.

Kaho Abe
 currently is a fellow at Eyebeam where she researches and builds games that utilize technology to bring people together face to face. Some of her projects include Hit Me!, Mary Mack 5000 and Ninja Shadow Warrior. Kaho’s work is largely focused on improving social and personal experiences through the use of technology, fashion and games. She has shown her projects in various shows and conferences in New York, Boston, San Jose, London, Tokyo, Osaka and Beijing. Kaho’s projects have also appeared or been discussed in I.D. Magazine, Kill Screen Magazine, CNET News, NBC, NY1 and Asahi Shimbun. Learn more about Kaho.


All workshops will take place at Eyebeam on Wednesday evenings, from 6:30-9PM. The workshop series costs $250 for all 6 workshops. This includes all materials aside from items on the “WHAT TO BRING TO CLASS” list and the double-starred items below:

September 21
In this workshop session, we will learn about the Arduino, coding chips, and basic circuit board construction using a breadboard. Through working with push buttons and LED’s (light emitting diodes), a simple quiz game show interface will be made.


September 28
In this workshop session, we will learn about analog sensors and how they can be used as a switch with Arduino code. We will also make paper candle bend sensors from scratch, and work with tone generation on the Arduino to make an interactive birthday toy.


October 5

In this workshop session, we will discuss various ways physical and screen-based experiences can work together by introducing Processing and how it can be connected to Arduino. We will use a piezo element as a vibration sensor to create a physical interface that measures levels of anger.


i can see clearly now imageOctober 12

In this workshop session, we will explore creative uses of low-tech sensors to produce effects that may otherwise seem more complex. We will explore Processing further and how it can be used with video. We will then make a quick installation with a pair of glasses, a light sensor and video clips.

** Bring any cheap plastic eyeglass frame you might have — those 3D glasses you get at the cinema can work!

hand swatting game imageOctober 19
In this workshop session, we will learn how fabric can be sensors too. With conductive fabric, flexible wire, Processing and the Arduino, our clothing can become an interface. We will make special gloves to enhance the popular children’s hand slapping game.


i am flying bear imageOctober 26

In this workshop session, we will learn how accelerometers and tilt sensors work. We will then make a teddy bear controller using multiple ball tilt switches to navigate through a screen-based 3-D terrain. Up, up and away!

**Bring old stuffed animals if you have any or pick one up from the dollar store on your way over!