Collaborative Ideation Tool

Tangible user interfaces

How can tangible user interfaces be used to improve pre-existing ideation techniques? In this project, we explored different methods and types of design brainstorming using smoke and mirrors prototyping.

The primary goal of this project was to learn smoke and mirror prototyping techniques using projected animations on physical objects.

Project type: Team with Jieying Yang, Tiger Zhao and Ruitao Liang
My role: Ideation, wireframing and creating animations, filming, video editing
Duration: 3 weeks (Fall 2018)
Instructors: Aaron Soloway, Graham Plumb
Tools: Keynote, Illustrator, Premiere Pro


We began the project by creating a scenario and assigning roles to ourselves: As a design team consisting of a marketing executive, two in-house designers, and an external consultant, we were working toward ideating an early childhood educational product.

O&S flow and functions-1

We began by investigating the method people already used to ideate for design. For example: sticky notes walls, mind maps, concept maps, primary and secondary research, etc... Through that, we began to look for areas in the process that could be improved or made more easy using technology. For the amount of time we had, we decided to focus on ideation, recording, and recalling features.

By the end, we had created a system that could be used on any flat surface, in a collaborative setting.

O&S flow and functions-2
O&S flow and functions-3


Exploring tangible UI using projection was a unique, valuable experience with many learnings. One of the big challenges was creating tools to be augmented by projection that enhanced functionality from pre-existing tools from the physical world (e.g. stickynotes), without a) simply making a physical cursor and b) inventing something that was difficult to learn and did not consider conventional behaviours.

Another huge takeaway for me was learning to move forward when working in a team. In the beginning of the project, there was quite a bit of disagreement with ideas - as the deadline crept up, not much progress was being made. After a few work sessions of not getting far, one of my teammates said something that resonated with me strongly - "instead of just shooting down each other's ideas, let's take the aspects we like about it and build off of it." We began to work much faster after this, and I can see myself referring back to this in future group situations.