Connecting Physical and Virtual mediums From a product design standpoint, we are encountering demands for solutions that exist between hard and soft mediums, and there is a need for workspaces that can support and connect both the physical and virtual development of such ideas. These hybrid products are bridging a gap between our physical and virtual experiences and creating new challenges as well as new solutions. In essence, they are serving to connect the tangible and the intangible aspects of our lives. My thesis is focused on the connection between the physical and virtual mediums of information and experience. I hope to explore the workspace as a stage for composing such creative content that includes aspects which are both tangible and intangible. The design explorations will consider the balanced relationship of user experience and social interaction within the working space where intangible ideas are transformed into a tangible reality. The goal is to develop a creative workspace that can be used to form and develop new ideas. The supportive stage would provide the space and means for accessing and manipulating both physical and virtual content, serving as an integrated interface allowing users the ability to fluidly express their ideas in both digital and material mediums. Interfaces between Physical and Virtual mediums As an example, technology represents a body of intangible knowledge that is applied in the physical world. This process transforms information into three dimensional representations which people can interact with. Most importantly, these objects have the ability to represent more than just knowledge alone. They have the potential to incorporate human concepts of thoughts, dreams, emotions, and memory that collectively reinforce the human experience. For these reasons, it is worthwhile to investigate the spatial form and visual representation of such ethereal aspects of information and experience to take the science of technology beyond the impersonal 'black box' of wires and circuitry. Such product solutions require the successful development of their applications and context sensitive scenarios as well as the form and packaging of their overall embodiment. As technology becomes an ever-increasing part of our lives, a growing challenge for humankind will be to preserve its essential role of expressing and acting out the very nature of what it means to be human in tandem with the developments of design. In order to sustain a prosperous quality of life, our progress in technology and design must preserve humanity by preserving the human experience. To address such concerns, my thesis exploration will focus on investigating applications of technology that connect the physical and virtual experience through a tangible interface which encourages human interaction. The idea is to create a human-centered design rather than one focused on technology alone. With the growing level of connectedness within a networked world, there is an increasing need for the development of product solutions that aid humans in making and maintaining a more beneficial, productive, and enjoyable connectedness with each other and the world around them. Such hybrid products of the future will be challenged to integrate both hard and soft mediums in connecting tangible and intangible forms of information and experience. This will involve the parallel development of product systems which include three-dimensional material structures with integrated interfaces to components of digital multimedia content. The focus of this study views all technology, to some degree, as being purely tacit knowledge until it is applied through a physical manifestation or application. This process of transformation moves information from one medium to another and requires a fluid interface at the point of transition. Although transparent technology can be viewed as an appealing notion to avoid clutter and information overload within such a setting, there is an essential need for real, physical human interaction. An important question is: How can humanness be preserved within such a designed experience? One of the problems which emphasizes the lack of such qualities is evident in today's information workers who are 'losing touch' with the human intangibles of creative thought, dreams, emotions, memories, and sensations. To improve the design of such interfaces, we must ask, "How do objects or environments represent these ideas in a physical way to reinforce, confirm, acknowledge and draw us closer to our sense of what it means to be human?". These issues can be explored in the context of a creative workspace. This point of interaction and exchange is basically an information interface where ideas are transformed from one medium to another. The scenario describes a situation where a user needs to access and interact with intangible information in a tangible way. Several problems which arise include virtual isolation, information overload, and a general disconnected separation of the physical and non-physical worlds. Potential solutions could offer improvement through the evolution of tangible interfaces for intangible experiences. Such concepts would attempt to connect users with dynamic and transparent technology through an integrated physical interface. My proposal is to develop a creative workspace that connects the physical and virtual aspects of information and experience. The proposed design will address the needs of middle-aged people interacting with each other, information, and technology. The creative workspace would act as an interface where information is transformed between physical and digital mediums. Such a design would be used in creative applications at any given moment when there is a need to access, transfer, or transform information. The setting of the design would be placed in an office, studio environment, or point of interaction and exchange for both private and group collaborations. Its purpose would be to support the need to connect to an intangible experience or access intangible information to be applied in a physical way. The design will attempt to create a hybrid, tactile-physical interface that combines aspects of both hard and soft mediums to assist in the organization and transformation of information. The argument of this thesis suggests that the integration of both physical and virtual space within creative workspace environments serves to ultimately improve the meaningful connections between humans, their work, and their interactive experiences.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Offices--Designs and plans; Work environment; Virtual reality; Virtual reality in architecture; Virtual work teams; Teleconferencing; Human-computer interaction
Department, Program, or Center
School of Design (CIAS)
Breneman, Samuel, "Physical-virtual workspaces" (2008). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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