The Tangible User Interface In Phygital Environments
As modernization demands digital transformation, whether computational or operational, new ways of interacting with new environments become necessary to create more responsive applications that feel more natural.
Tangible user interfaces are everyday physical objects, such as keys, a bracelet or a card, which carries technology capable of generating a digital representation, making it a significant resource to develop phygital implementations (physical and digital). This makes computer interaction with the final user easier and more intuitive, since the format of the tangible interface is suggestive: it is possible to have a physical key authenticated in an electronic door, for example.
Tangible equipment is based on three concepts:
(1) interaction through physical contact, which creates responses in the digital environment;
(2) the practicality in day-to-day applications that can make life easier and are increasingly gaining market space;
(3) collaboration, which allows from organizing meetings to performing remote surgeries, for example.
From the characteristics mentioned above, it is possible to assume the use of tangibility in several environments. For example, imagine a tangible table of financial transactions, placed on a waiting room of a bank branch. At the table, there are several cards; each card has the technology to store data of a particular banking product, whether an application or a loan. The service will be hired simply because the customer decided to take home one of those cards. The tangible table can also be used for personalization of services: tokens can represent interest rates, money and installments of automatic debit. Thus, the customer assembles the product more easily and understands the bank’s business rules without having to read complicated contracts.
Although devices that use the GUI standard interface (Graphical User Interface, such as keyboards, mouse and displays) are also physical, the TUI physical representation has a different aspect: the physical manipulation of an object used as an interface allows greater control and manipulation of its parameters, which directly affects the underlying digital simulation.
A tangible interface, located in the “real world” (physical, existing world), usually has a digital representation, located in the “digital world” (cloud or local server). Modifications that occur on the real or digital world are connected and react in a similar way. This mechanism allows controlling digital information through real-world interfaces.
In other words, physical representations of a tangible platform are computationally linked to the digital information. For example,it is possible to obtain information on a graphic stored in a file, and it is possible to use such information to plot a graphic on a 3D table with a tangible interface, making the graphic on the table also become an input key, and when touched, the changes resulting from this touch will be transmitted to the information stored in the file. Similarly, a file containing information of a graphic may be created from scratch, using only the tangible information, and the data resulting from this use will create new digital information.
However, some TUIs have a specific format and do not have the ability to change the forms of tangible representations during interaction with the user. In such cases, users should use a predefined finite set of objects that serve as TUIs and change only the spatial relationship between them, not their individual form. For example, changing the position of a cup in a kitchen can enable the existing intelligent cooking functions that may exist in that environment, but it is not possible to change the shape of the cup during this process. Even so, TUIs use the inherent human ability to understand and manipulate physical forms while providing the processing power from computers.
Tangible platforms provide immediate interaction and react to the entrance of users in real time. Using the previous example of the 3D graphic, this graphic may respond to direct user interaction by changing its color when touched or reversing its previously displayed values. This creates a greater immersion for users when compared to purely digital interfaces, since the information change occurs in the same environment as the user. Also, TUIs are designed to look like objects related to their function, which makes their use intuitive, especially for users who have never had contact with them.
In general, TUIs give physical form for digital information and computer science, making the direct manipulation of bits easier. The objective is to enable collaboration, learning and decision-making through digital technology, taking advantage of the human ability to grasp and manipulate physical and material objects. The interactive relationship between these elements makes the experience with virtual environments more real and convincing to the user, who can take advantage of the five senses. This can also be used for applications to help disabled people and for enriching the amount of resources available to interact with a computer.
everis has been working with these new types of interface, aiming at implementing the phygital project to our clients’ environments. Such projects gather tangible interfaced and other applications of the company, in addition to interaction models with open or personalized journeys, which are created from a quick development plan that involves a cycle of business understanding, agile development methodology and relationships with suppliers. The purpose is creating a real digital immersive experience that engage clients and employees from several market segments, decreasing the conflict in personal and digital relationships.
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