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Tangible User Interfaces (TUIs): A Novel Paradigm for GIS

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In recent years, an increasing amount of effort has gone into the design of GIS user interfaces. On the one hand, Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) with a high degree of sophistication have replaced line-driven commands of first-generation GIS. On the other hand, a number of alternative approaches have been suggested, most notably those based on Virtual Environments (VEs). In this paper we discuss a novel interface for GIS, which springs from recent work carried out in the field of Tangible User Interfaces (TUIs). The philosophy behind TUIs is to allow people to interact with computers via familiar tangible objects, therefore taking advantage of the richness of the tactile world combined with the power of numerical simulations. Two experimental systems, named Illuminating Clay and SandScape, are described here and their applications to GIS are examined. Conclusions suggest that these interfaces might streamline the landscape design process and result in a more effective use of GIS, especially when distributed decision-making and discussion with non-experts are involved.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: SENSEable City Laboratory DUSP and Media Lab Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2: Tangible Media Group, Media Lab Massachusetts Institute of Technology 3: Department of Architecture University of Cambridge 4: City Design and Development Group, DUSP Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Publication date: October 1, 2004


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