usability, design, interaction design, information, web usability, user interface design, usability engineering,user testing, usability inspection, heuristic evaluation, webdesign, UI, GUI, HCI, user-centered design,human-computer interaction, mensch computer interaktion,universität konstanz, usability test, benutzerfreundlichkeit, mensch-maschine-interaktion, mensch-computer-interaktion, human-computer-interaction, usable, website usability, ergonomie, ergonomisch, psychologie, gestalt principles, scenario, information visualization,informationsvisualisierung, User Interface Evaluation, Usability testing, Human Factors, Erogonomic, Ergonomics, User Interfaces, User Interface, Interfaces, informations visualisierung, visual information seeking system, visual search interface, Mensch & Computer 2012Harald Reiterer


Physical Computing


Harald Reiterer


Daniel Klinkhammer







Fri 10:00 - 11:30, 11:45 - 13:15


Physical computing means building interactive physical systems by the use of software and hardware that can sense and respond to the analog world.

Physical computing is used in a wide variety of domains and application:

  • In museums
  • In art
  • In product design
  • In commercial applications
  • In scientific applications
Prototyping plays an important role in Physical Computing. Tools like Arduino, Phidgets and VVVV help designers to quickly prototype their interactive concepts.

Learning Content
Novel ways of interacting with computers and smart devices commence major challenges to interaction design practice. The increasing number of different form factors and a trend towards natural interfaces and user experience design introduce an unprecedented variety of possible designs. This new complexity requires for a better integration of creative design techniques into the development process.

This seminar introduces students to making stand-alone active and interactive devices as well as sensor circuits that can “talk” and “listen” to a PC. The class will present simplified steps to the technical aspects of physical computing, easing the learning curve and focusing attention on the concept and content of physical/media relationships. Students will be challenged to visualize new correspondences between the virtual world of digital media and the physical world of bodies and spaces.

The audience should already be firm with general methods and techniques of interaction design and usability engineering (e.g. through our courses “Interactive Systems“ or “Usability Engineering“). Participants are expected to be familiar with basic HCI literature such as “Interaction Design“ (Rogers, Sharp & Preece), “Human-Computer Interaction“ (Dix et al.) or “Designing the User Interface“ (Shneiderman & Plaisant). This seminar is highly recommended for students that seek to do their bachelor or masters project in HCI.

Learning Objectives
Participants will know the techniques and aims of physical prototyping in interaction design. Through practical examples and real-world application, they will have experience in applying these methods within a real design project.

In total 120 hours, split into:
  • 28 hours course of study with attendance
  • 92 hours of self-study time






Participants will have to present their work within two presentations as well as a collection and summary of their design artifacts. This is a hands-on seminar which means that participants are expected to work independently on practical projects that will be presented to the other students during the course. The results of the research conducted during the seminar will eventually be documented in form of a Wiki and a collection of design artifacts.

  • Oral presentations
  • Wiki articles
  • Collection of design artifacts


The seminar is based on these three books that complement each other:

  • Dan O'Sullivan, Tom Igoe (2004) Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers Thomson
  • Jan Barth, Roman Stefan Grasy, Martin Lukas, Jochen Leinberger, Markus Lorenz Schilling (2013) Prototyping Interfaces: Interaktives Skizzieren Mit VVVV Schmidt Hermann Verlag
  • Hartmut Bohnacker, Benedikt Groß, Julia Laub, Claudius Lazzeroni, (2009) Generative Gestaltung: entwerfen, programmieren, visualisieren Schmidt Hermann Verlag