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Hayes Raffle, Amanda Parkes, Hiroshi Ishii
injection molded ABS resin, polyurethane resin, embedded servo motors, custom electronics, and custom software

What is it like to sculpt with motion? Topobo is a 3D constructive assembly system embedded with kinetic memory, the ability to record and playback physical motion. By snapping together a combination of Passive (static) and Active (motorized) components, people can quickly assemble dynamic biomorphic forms like plants, animals and skeletons with Topobo, animate those forms by pushing, pulling, and twisting them, and observe the system repeatedly play back those motions. For example, a moose can be constructed and then taught to gesture and walk by twisting its body and legs. The moose will then repeat those movements and walk repeatedly. Topobo works like an extension of the body givng one's gestural fluency computation and memory.

Hayes Raffle is a practicing artist and designer researching the relationships between people and machines. Recently, Hayes has created toys, systems and devices for people to use gesture, touch and natural physical skills to improve communication, to facilitate artistic expression and to understand dynamic system behavior. Before joining the MIT Media Lab, Hayes studied sculpture at Yale, helped design and develop the ZOOB building system and ran his own art and design studio in California. He is the winner of several internationally recognized art and design awards and has shown his work in exhibitions around the United States and Europe.

Amanda Parkes is a designer currently researching in the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab. Her research interests include developing intuitive and investigative learning and design tools as well as explorations into the relationship of gesture, form, materiality and computation in the context of hybrid physical-digital objects. Previously, Amanda worked as a media exhibit developer at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and developed installations and programs for the Venice Guggenheim and the National Science Museum in London. Amanda holds a B.S. in Product Design Engineering and a B.A. in Art History from Stanford University and has received various international art and design awards.

Hiroshi Ishii is a tenured Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, at the MIT Media Lab. He joined the MIT Media Laboratory in October 1995, and founded the Tangible Media Group to pursue a new vision of Human Computer Interaction: "Tangible Bits." His team seeks to change the "painted bits" of desktop computers to "tangible bits" by giving physical form to digital information and computation. Ishii and his students have presented their vision of "Tangible Bits" at a variety of academic, industrial design, and media art venues including ACM SIGCHI, ACM SIGGRAPH, Industrial Design Society of America, and Ars Electronica, emphasizing that the development of tangible interfaces requires the rigor of both scientific and artistic review. Since July 2002, Ishii has co-directed the Thing That Think Consortium at the MIT Media Lab.

Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge Josh Lifton's significant contribution developing Topobo's firmware. Other collaborators include Cristobal Garcia, Wesley Jin, Andy Lieserson, Brian Mazzeo, Ben Recht, Jeremy Schwartz, Elysa Wan, Nick Williams, and Laura Yip. Thanks also to Arthur Ganson, Mitchell Resnick and Bakhtiar Mikhak for ideas and encouragement, the members of the Tangible Media Group, and all of the professional educators who have supported this project. This project has been supported by the MIT Media Lab's Things That Think consortium.

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