On tangible user interfaces, humans and spatiality

Ehud Sharlin, Benjamin Watson, Yoshifumi Kitamura, Fumio Kishino, Yuichi Itoh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)


Like the prehistoric twig and stone, tangible user interfaces (TUIs) are objects manipulated by humans. Tangible user interface success will depend on how well they exploit spatiality, the intuitive spatial skills humans have with the objects they use. In this paper, we carefully examine the relationship between humans and physical objects, and related previous research. From this examination, we distill a set of observations and turn these into heuristics for incorporation of spatiality into TUI application design, a cornerstone for their success. Following this line of thought, we identify "spatial TUIs," the subset of TUIs that mediate interaction with shape, space and structure. We then examine several existing spatial TUIs using our heuristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-346
Number of pages9
JournalPersonal and Ubiquitous Computing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Affordances
  • Design heuristics
  • Patial mappings
  • Tangible user interfaces


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