Posey & Escape Machine

Collaborators: Michael Weller, Ellen Yi-Luen Do

2009  Posey is a computationally-enhanced hub-and-strut construction kit for learning and play. Posey employs a ball and socket connection that allows users to move the parts of an assembled model. Hubs and struts are optocoupled through the ball and socket joints using infrared LEDs and photosensors. Wireless transmitters in the hubs send connection and geometry information to a host computer. The host computer assembles a representation of the physical model as the user creates and configures it. Application programs can then use this representation to control computational models in particular domains.

We used Posey to build applications that deploy a reconfigurable physical model as a tangible interface for various domains, including a puppet show application and a model for searching a database of molecules. We demonstrate these applications to support a case for computationally enhanced construction kits as a semi-general interaction modality.

We also developed Escape Machine, a puzzle game in which children control the behavior of characters in a maze by manipulating a tangible state machine built with Posey, our computationally-enhanced hub-and-strut construction kit. Through manipulating this state machine children create an algorithmic specification for the behavior of both the avatar and its enemies in an attempt to navigate a maze without being eaten. We outline several strategies for success at Escape Machine and discuss how it embeds an important computational thinking concept in interaction with a tangible device.

We observed children ages nine to eleven playing the game in several sessions. The qualitative results of this observation validate the promise of Posey and Escape Machine to engage children in manipulating algorithmic specifications for behavior.

2009 Tangible Sketching in 3D with Posey, Weller, M., Do, E. Y-L., Gross M., ACM Human Factors in Computing (CHI) Interactive Demonstrations: April 4-6. 3193-3198. [pdf]
2009 State Machines are Child’s Play: Observing children ages 9 to 11 playing Escape Machine, Weller, M., Do, E. Y-L., Gross M., ACM Interaction Design for Children (IDC), Como Italy, 282-289. [pdf]
2009 An Optocoupled Poseable Ball and Socket Joint for Computationally Enhanced Construction Kits, Weller, M.P., E YL Do, and M. Gross. ROBOCOMM, IEEE 2nd International Conference on Robotic Communication and Coordination, Odense Denmark, March 2009. [pdf]
2008 Posey: Instrumenting a Poseable Hub and Strut Construction Toy, Weller, M.P., Do, E. Y-L., and Gross, M.D. Proceedings, Tangible and Embedded Interaction 2008 (TEI), Bonn, Germany, pp 39-46. [pdf]
2008 Escape Machine: Building a tangible state machine game controller with Posey, Weller, M.P., Do, E. Y-L., and Gross, M.D. ACM Conference on Interaction Design for Children (IDC) Chicago, IL, June 2008. [pdf]