Mechanical User Interface - Context Mechanical User Interface - Detail 1 Mechanical User Interface - Self Mechanical User Interface - Detail 2

Project: Create a Computer Interface as an Interactive Exhibit

Client Objective: An information and technology center in cooperation with a children’s museum required a custom, interactive user interface for a computer display as part of a larger exhibition they were creating for children and adults.

Involvement: I was approached to take on the design/build challenge of creating a computer interface from the ground up. An aesthetic had already been established for the computer display and the surrounding exhibit space. I had to visually and physically adapt an interactive device in a way that was a unique and engaging access point to a computer and its specific application.

Drawing from the history of analogue technology and its lineage of meters, dials, and buttons, I created a device that I’ve referred to as MUI (Mechanical User Interface.) Given the meager levels of tactile pleasure in the quality of most computer peripherals, I wanted to provide aspects of the visual and physical feedback of an early HiFi tuner. Using precision bearings, a 5 lb. flywheel, and an elegant mechanism, I combined the required electronics and software to allow for a physically engaging interactive experience with a computer. One soft spin of the knob causes the needle to scan more than its entire range in a way that the young and not so young enjoy with childish delight.

Along with the overall design of the interface, I engineered, and machined all mechanical components, as well as coordinated the design/build/integration of the electronics and software elements pertaining to it.