HERMITS: Mechanical Shells for Robotic TUIs (Ars Electronica 2020)

Ken Nakagaki

'Shells, often found on seashores, exemplifies the absence of existed lives. What if a presence dwells in to animate them?'

Project HERMITS approaches the theme of "Presence of Absence" with such a setup where robots become the source of energy to give presences to the inert mechanisms.  While we perceive and express presence through motions, we envision a world where a robotic system giving presence to static mechanisms and objects.

HERMITS: 'Mechanical Shells' for Robotic TUIs

-- In nature, hermit crabs actively switch their 'shells' throughout their lifetimes according to their body sizes and shapes. 'Shell' is also a fundamental component of computer architecture that acts as an interface between the Operating System (OS) and users, first coined in MIT in the 1960s. --

In project HERMITS, we explore the concept of 'mechanical shells' for robotic tangible user interfaces (TUIs). Just like hermit crabs, the robotic TUIs can actively interchange their 'mechanical shells' for providing rich and reconfigurable tangible interaction.

This work opens up and speculates a new form of UI design, through a hybrid architecture that Active Machines (robots) and Passive Machines (shells) are combined for dynamic digital and physical seamless interactions.


Ken Nakagaki, Joanne Leong, Jordan L Tappa, João Wilbert, and Hiroshi Ishii


*This project page is curated for Ars Electronica 2020 Online Exhibition. The full project itself will be published at ACM UIST2020 (Oct 20-23). While this page partially reveals the project through images and GIFs, full information (full video and paper) will appear in the Tangible Media Group web. Stay tuned!

Contact <> for any inquiry.

Research Topics
#robotics #design