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Watch David Merrill’s “Natural Interactions with Digital Content” Seminar on People, Computers, and Design at Stanford University

In this talk, David Merrill gives us an overview of his research on a number of novel platforms for accessing and manipulating digital content. These systems use expressive gesture and visual attention as inputs, explore multi-user interaction, and leverage our understanding of physical materials. I will focus on my most ambitious project and Ph.D. topic, Siftables, a tangible interaction platform that gives physical embodiment to information and digital media items. The system utilizes sensing, graphical display, embedded computation and wireless communication to free interactions with digital content from the desktop environment. Siftables points the way toward a new generation of interactive tools that bend to our needs, rather than bending us to meet their limitations.

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David Merrill’s “Siftables” talk at TED

Imagine overturning a container of nuts and bolts, then looking through the resulting pile for a particular item. Or spreading photographs out on a tabletop and then beginning to sort them into piles. During these activities we interact with large numbers of small objects at the same time, and they utilize all of our fingers and both hands together. MIT grad student David Merrill demos Siftables — cookie-sized, computerized tiles you can stack and shuffle in your hands…