This course has been mothballed and is not expected to be offered in the future, but I am leaving it online as a reference resource (for myself if not others!). There are a number of other "physical computing" or "responsive technology" courses available on the Seattle campus.

Prospective Students! Please Note!
In this course you will need a laptop most days and a personal Arduino kit beginning in the third week of class. Arduino kits can be ordered from a number of web sites, and are usually delivered in a week or less. You are encouraged to order your kit soon.

Check the Course Info/Equipment page for additional information.


In this course we will explore responsive environments at varying scales, from personal to architectural. This will involve learning a little about electronics, about computers, and about humans. In the end, the aim is to provide you with knowledge and skills so you can begin to design with these tools in mind, or have an intelligent conversation about the future of digital tech in the built environment.

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more

Laptop and desktop computers include sensors. The obvious ones are keyboards, mice, trackpads, microphones, and webcams. There are also actuators, such as LCD displays and speakers. Less obvious sensors include accelerometers to sense if the device is dropped (and park the disk read/write heads), battery-level sensors, wi-fi and Bluetooth radios for communications, ethernet adaptors, fingerprint readers, etc.

Going Over the Rainbow

These sensors can be an important part of a responsive environment. Vision is often part of high-end multi-user ubiquitous-computing systems. Wii-Remotes can be used in lieu of a mouse, or as an additional input device. Digital displays and rendering software make great photoreal images from screen pixels, and can be used to graph data over time. Great!! but we're going to look at other kinds of sensors as well. In a bit of a whirlwind of our own, we'll see how far over the rainbow or up the yellow-brick-road we can get.

The Future is a Big Place

In this course we will consider both "traditional" and "non-traditional" input and output mechanisms and theories about their roles; we will consider mechanical and digital logic; and sensor data as a means of inferring meaning. What does it mean for an environment to be responsive? We will have to think creatively, and learn to express ourselves clearly using code, hardware, and the environment. Our experiments are necessarily ephemeral and incomplete, but they can be fun and revealing, and presage an interesting future.