CHI 2011 • Session: Expression & Perception

May 7–12, 2011 • Vancouver, BC, Canada

Kinetic Tiles Hyunjung Kim Woohun Lee Dept. of Industrial Design, KAIST 291 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 305-701 {rroseoscar, woohun.lee} +82-42-350-4559 ABSTRACT

material for physical kinetic animations. Similar to decorating walls and surfaces with ordinary tiles, people can assemble and animate the Kinetic Tiles through simple tangible-touch interaction with the modules. Three design methods for kinetic animation using Kinetic Tiles are explored and evaluated.

We propose and demonstrate Kinetic Tiles, modular construction units for kinetic animations. Three different design methods are explored and evaluated for kinetic animation with the Kinetic Tiles using preset movements, design via animation toolkit, and design via direct input. It is expected that the Kinetic Tiles, as a new design and architecture material, will assist designers to introduce kinetic expressions to the surfaces of everyday objects and spaces.


The current prototype of Kinetic Tiles is shown in Figure 11. Kinetic Tiles consists of tile modules and an actuation platform. The actuation platform consists of a matrix of electromagnets [2] and a driver board. Electromagnets separate the actuation platform from the tile modules and conceal it behind the object surfaces. Thus, users are unaware of the actuators and interact solely with the tile modules, which enable quick construction and manipulation of various compositions through tactile interactions.

Author Keywords

Kinetic design, Kinetic interaction, Kinetic design material. ACM Classification Keywords

H5.2. User Interfaces: Prototyping. General Terms


Due to recent advances in technology and increased demand for new interactive experiences, there has been an increasing interest in using physical kinetic motion in the fields of interaction, architecture, and product design [8, 9]. By setting physical movement as a new aesthetic factor, kinetic design encourages designers to explore the animation of products and spaces [4]. In order to generate and control movement for kinetic design, designers not only combine materials and actuators to create dynamic forms, but also choreograph movements. However, for product and environment designers, it is not simple to devise moving mechanisms using actuators and to program kinetic motions appropriate to their purpose. Even though Kinetic Sketchup has been demonstrated as a pioneering tangible method for motion prototyping [7], studies on developing design tools and materials for kinetic design remain in the beginning stages of development.

Figure 1. Kinetic Tiles prototype.

Among many possible movements, the current tile module employs a vertical linear motion generated by deforming the surface of the elastic fabric (e.g. [6]). Figure 2(a) illustrates the detailed structure of the tile module. The tile module is topped with spandex; inside the module, a magnet is attached to the back of the fabric layer. The external electromagnetic force generated by the actuation platform drives the magnet to move up and down. When the magnet is pulled down, a concave dip is created on the tile surface (see Figure 2(b)). Each tile is an 11 mm-thick square sized 25 mm × 25 mm. The deformation depth is approximately 7 mm. (See [5] for more information on the structure and the operating mechanism of the tile.)

We present Kinetic Tiles, modular construction units of physical tiles with a kinetic motion. Unlike existing kinetic displays, Kinetic Tiles can be used as a novel design Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, or republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. CHI 2011, May 7–12, 2011, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Copyright 2011 ACM 978-1-4503-0267-8/11/05....$10.00.


To see how the prototype works, please refer to our movie file uploaded along with this paper.


CHI 2011 • Session: Expression & Perception

May 7–12, 2011 • Vancouver, BC, Canada

record the location and status of the tile, a hall sensor array is embedded in the top of the actuation platform. The sensor array interacts with the magnet inside the tile module and provides feedback to the control system. Several reported kinetic displays can react to input such as touch (e.g. Lumen [10]), light (e.g. Aperture [1]), and sound (e.g. Murmur [12]). However, the reactions are temporary without recording and editing for further use. Inspired by Topobo [11], a constructive system with kinetic memory, Kinetic Tiles provides recording and playback modes. In the recording mode, the user presses the tiles to be activated in the playback mode and registers the tiles in the control system (see Figure 3(e)). In the playback mode, the pressed tiles play a preset motion in the order in which they were pressed (see Figure 3(f)).

Figure 2. (a) Detailed structure of the tile module. (b) Moving mechanism of the Kinetic Tiles. DESIGN METHODS FOR KINETIC ANIMATION USING KINETIC TILES

Kinetic Tiles constructs a physical kinetic animation that includes a foreground graphic and a background actuation. The foreground graphic is an initial picture drawn by arranging the tiles. The background actuation is a programmed performance of the electromagnets. The background actuation itself is invisible; however, combined with the foreground graphics, it becomes visible and tangible through the movements of the tiles. Then, how can the background actuation be programmed? How can kinetic animation be created and edited using Kinetic Tiles? We designed three design methods for kinetic animation using Kinetic Tiles based on different programming methods for background actuation. The first method, using a preset actuation, provides an initially fixed background actuation without allowing users to edit. The second method, design via an animation toolkit, uses a tangible kit for scripting the background actuations; while the third method, design via direct input, actuates tiles directly through finger input. Each method is described in detail as follows. Use of preset actuation

The user designs only the foreground graphics that will operate in a fixed background actuation. For example, a row-by-row actuation with a 500 ms delay is given in the following user workshop (see Figure 3(b)).

Figure 3. (a) Conventional design with static tiles. (b) Kinetic design with preset actuation. (c) Frame animation toolkit. (d) Kinetic design with the toolkit. Kinetic design with direct input in (e) the recording mode and (f) the playback mode. EXPLORATORY USER WORKSHOP

Design via animation toolkit

To test the feasibility of the Kinetic Tiles as a new design material and to evaluate the three design methods for kinetic animation, a workshop-based user study was conducted. Six industrial design students (two graduates and four undergraduates) participated in this study. The workshop sessions were held twice and three students were involved in a session. Each session lasted approximately ninety minutes.

Frame-by-frame animation enables designers to freely create foreground graphics and background actuation, and thus precisely demonstrate their ideas. Inspired by Pixel Materiali [3], a system for creating pixel animations, a tangible frame animation toolkit was designed (see Figure 3(c)). The toolkit represents the current Kinetic Tiles prototype and is composed of 8 × 4 blank frames, timeline grids, and four types of tiny tiles that have two different colors (white and brown) and two different status (flat and dented). The user designs individual frames with the tiles, and then places them on a timeline to create an animation sequences (see Figure 3(d)).

The session began with a pattern design task. First, the participants were provided with the tile prototypes (hereinafter, static tiles) instead of the Kinetic Tiles and were asked to design tile patterns without using actuation (see Figure 3(a)). Secondly, the participants tested the Kinetic Tiles using an 8 × 4 actuator matrix, which was preprogrammed to be actuated row-by-row with a 500 ms delay (see Figure 3(b)). The participants created kinetic

Design via direct input

After constructing a foreground graphic, users can actuate individual tiles via direct finger input. In order to detect and


CHI 2011 • Session: Expression & Perception

May 7–12, 2011 • Vancouver, BC, Canada

patterns on the preset background actuation. Thirdly, the participants were asked to design animation sequences using the frame animation toolkit (see Figures 3(c) and 3(d)). At the end of the session, the method of designing via direct input using the Wizard of Oz method was demonstrated (see Figures 3(e) and 3(f)). The study was concluded with a written survey asking the participants about their opinions and suggestions for each of the methods and tasks.

Figure 4. Depiction of a lightning bolt from the preset movement method. (a) Participant assembling tiles on the actuation platform. (b) The actuated design.


Although the participants had never used kinetic design material prior to the workshops, they were able to quickly adapt to using the Kinetic Tiles. The technical aspects of the Kinetic Tiles are aesthetically hidden behind the shape of the tile module and its tactile feeling. Therefore, the participants could readily use the Kinetic Tiles as ordinary tiles. The participants responded that the fabric cover of the tiles gives a warm and soft feeling; they even compared the tiles to chocolate cubes.

Design via animation toolkit

The participants validated that frame-by-frame animation enables designers to express their ideas precisely by scripting freeform movements and controlling the time interval between the frames. The participants quickly became familiar with the toolkit, since the interface of the toolkit is analogous with that of traditional 2D animation software. Figures 5(a) and 5(b) describe a wiggling tadpole with a customized actuation. Figures 5(c) and 5(d) describe waves spreading out radially. It is worthwhile noting that the participant expressed acceleration by gradually shortening the time interval.

The outcomes from the tasks show that the Kinetic Tiles motivate the participants to add character and liveliness to their designs. With static tiles, the participants tended to create abstract geometric patterns, whereas with the Kinetic Tiles, they depicted specific objects with dynamic movements such as a swimming fish and a wiggling tadpole. The participants evaluated their designs using the Kinetic Tiles as more eye catching, emotionally engaging, and informative. More results and findings from the tasks that explored the three design methods for kinetic animation are discussed in the following.

With the toolkit, the participants tended to produce long and complicated animations. However, they were bored with the repetitive work of producing frames and wanted to copy and paste the frames. In addition, the participants mentioned that it was inconvenient for them to view the animation only after they built all sequences. To address these problems, they suggested the development of a software program that enables quick editing and preview of the animation.

Use of preset movements

The participants explored and created diverse foreground graphics that fit the preset background movement in the row-by-row sequential actuation mentioned above. Figure 4 shows an example of the designs produced by the participants: a lightning bolt. Other designs were depictions of lively objects, such as a swimming fish, sailing clouds, and the launching of a rocket. The works that were designed were not only descriptive, but also informative such as scrolling texts. It is notable that the participants verified that their designs were in harmony with the movement and repeatedly revised them. The participants evaluated this method as simple and an instant way to produce kinetic animations. However, they indicated that the fixed movement limited their expression. To mitigate this problem, they proposed an interface that enables simple modification of the direction and speed of the background actuation, as well as the selection of the background actuation from the preset actuations. In addition, adding non-magnetic passive tiles, which do not react to external actuation, was proposed. The passive tiles remained static, whereas the active tiles moved. Thus, more sophisticated design is available without specific modifications of the background movement.

Figure 5. Design outcomes using the animation toolkit method. Depiction of (a, b) a wiggling tadpole, and (c, d) a radial wave. (a, c) The designed animation sequences. (b, d) The first and last frames using the Kinetic Tiles. Design via direct input

Finally, after the demonstration of the design method using direct input, the participants responded that this is most


CHI 2011 • Session: Expression & Perception

May 7–12, 2011 • Vancouver, BC, Canada

intuitive and pleasurable method. However, they mentioned it has limitations in designing complicated animations. For example, the issue of the limited number of tiles activated at one time by finger input was raised in the discussion. Figure 6 illustrates examples of the designs produced: a space invader with blinking eyes and digestion in the intestine.

produce more sophisticated designs. It is expected that the Kinetic Tiles, as a new design and architecture material, will assist designers to introduce ambient and pleasurable kinetic expressions to the surfaces of everyday objects and spaces. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This work was supported by National Research Foundation of Korea – Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF2009-327-G00046) and the BK21 program of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Korea. REFERENCES

1. Aperture. 2. DKC DSD-06A (DC24V). 3. Drori, T. and Rinott, M. Pixel Materiali: a system for creating and understanding pixel animations. In Proc. of IDC '07, ACM Press (2007), 157-160.

Figure 6. Design outcomes using the direct input method: (a) a space invader with blinking eyes, and (b) digestion in the intestine.

4. Kinetic Design and the Animation of Products. ign_and_the_animation_of_products_by_ben_hopson_1 2642.asp.


The Kinetic Tiles need further engineering and design refinement. Future development of the Kinetic Tiles will aim to support higher resolution as the current 8 × 4 scripting platform restricts the designers in the full expression of their ideas. The platform itself is designed to be scalable. However, producing a sufficient number of tile modules requires much time and effort because the tiles were sewn one-by-one to attach the fabric and the magnet to the tile. Modification of the tile design will allow the extension of the platform.

5. Kim, H. and Lee, W. Kinetic Tiles: Modular Construction Units for Interactive Kinetic Surfaces. UIST '10 Posters, ACM Press (2010) 6. Kim, H. and Lee, W. Shade Pixel. SIGGRAPH '08 Posters, ACM Press (2008), n. 34. 7. Parkes, A. and Ishii, H. Kinetic sketchup: motion prototyping in the tangible design process. In Proc. of TEI '09, ACM Press (2009), 367-372.

In addition, to enrich the designs which are possible to be created using the Kinetic Tiles and to realize various applications, surface materials (e.g. color, shape, and texture), kinetic motion mechanisms (e.g. linear, rotational, and radial movements), and tile size should be further explored.

8. Parkes, A., Poupyrev, I., and Ishii, H. Designing kinetic interactions for organic user interfaces. Communications of the ACM, 51, 6 (2008), 58-65. 9. Poupyrev, I., Nashida, T. and Okabe, M. Actuation and tangible user interfaces: the Vaucanson duck, robots, and shape displays. In Proc. of TEI '07, ACM Press (2007), 205-212.


Kinetic Tiles, modular construction units for kinetic animations, have been proposed and demonstrated. Users can assemble and animate the Kinetic Tiles through simple tangible-touch interactions with the modules. Three different design methods were explored and evaluated for kinetic animation with the Kinetic Tiles using preset movements, design via animation toolkit, and design via direct input. The participants of the exploratory user workshop preferred the design using the animation toolkit method for professional contexts and creation of complicated and precise animations, and design using the direct input method for pleasurable creation of simple animations. In addition, the addition of different types of tiles, such as passive tiles, was suggested as a simple way to

10. Poupyrev, I., Nashida, T., Maruyama, S., Rekimoto, J. and Yamaji, Y. Lumen: interactive visual and shape display for calm computing. SIGGRAPH '04 Emerging technologies, ACM Press (2004), 17. 11. Raffle, H., Parkes, A., Ishii, H. Topobo: a constructive assembly system with kinetic memory, In Proc. of CHI '04, ACM Press (2004), 647-654. 12. Rydarowski, A., Samanci, O. and Mazalek, A. Murmur: kinetic relief sculpture, multi-sensory display, listening machine. In Proc. of TEI '08. ACM Press (2008), 231238.


Kinetic tiles - ACM Digital Library

May 7, 2011 - We propose and demonstrate Kinetic Tiles, modular construction units for kinetic animations. Three different design methods are explored and evaluated for kinetic animation with the Kinetic Tiles using preset movements, design via animation toolkit, and design via direct input. It is expected that the Kinetic ...

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