- Tangible Media
The Tangible Media Group, led by Professor Hiroshi Ishii, pursues the vision of Tangible Bits & Radical Atoms to seamlessly couple the dual worlds of bits and atoms by giving dynamic physical form to digital information and computation.
Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
Associate Director of MIT Media Lab
Director of Tangible Media Group
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Hiroshi Ishii is the Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Laboratory. After joining the Media Lab in October 1995, he founded the Tangible Media Group to make digital tangible by giving physical form to digital information and computation. Here, he pursues his visions of Tangible Bits (1997) and Radical Atoms (2012) that will transcend the Painted Bits of GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces), the current dominant paradigm of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction).
He is recognized as a founder of “Tangible User Interfaces (TUI),” a new research genre based on the CHI ’97 “Tangible Bits” paper presented with Brygg Ullmer in Atlanta, Georgia, which led to the spinoff ACM International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) from 2007. In addition to academic conferences, “Tangible Bits” was exhibited at the NTT ICC (2000) in Tokyo, Japan, at the Ars Electronica Center (2001-2003) in Linz, Austria, and many other international arts & design venues. For his Tangible Bits work, he was awarded tenure from MIT in 2001, and elected to the CHI Academy in 2006.
In 2012, he presented his new vision of “Radical Atoms” to leap beyond “Tangible Bits” by assuming a hypothetical generation of materials that can change form and properties dynamically and computationally, becoming as reconfigurable as pixels on a GUI screen. His team’s Radical Atoms works, including Shape Displays and Programmable Materials, contributed to form the new stream of “Shape-Changing UI” research in the HCI community. His “Radical Atoms” vision was selected as the overarching theme of Ars Electronica Festival 2016, with the subtitle “The Alchemists of our Time.” Ishii’s team ran a 3 year long Radical Atoms Exhibition at the Ars Electronica Center, which has been extended to run through the summer of 2019.
Ishii and his team have presented their visions of “Tangible Bits” and “Radical Atoms” at a variety of academic, design, and artistic venues (including ACM SIGCHI, ACM SIGGRAPH, Industrial Design Society of America, AIGA, Ars Electronica, ICC, Centre Pompidou, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, Milan Design Week) emphasizing that the design of engaging and inspiring tangible interactions requires the rigor of both scientific and artistic review, encapsulated by his motto, “Be Artistic and Analytic. Be Poetic and Pragmatic.”
In 2019, he won SIGCHI Lifetime Research Award for his fundamental and influential research contributions to the field of human-computer interaction in the past quarter century.
Prior to joining the MIT Media Lab, Ishii led the CSCW (Computer-Supported Cooperative Work) research group at NTT Human Interface Laboratories Japan from 1988-1994, where he and his team invented the TeamWorkStation (1990) and ClearBoard (1992). He received a B.E. degree in electronic engineering, and M.E. and Ph.D. degrees in computer engineering from Hokkaido University, Japan, in 1978, 1980 and 1992, respectively.
His greatest treasure is the email message he received from Dr. Mark Weiser in 1997 regarding his CHI ‘97 Tangible Bits paper which was on the verge of rejection.
SIGCHI 2019 Lifetime Research Award
Video of SIGCHI 2019 Lifetime Research Award Lecture in Glasgow on May 6th, 2019
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