Reading Response – Physical Computing’s Greatest Hits (and misses)

This tour through the greatest hits (and misses) of physical computing projects was such a fun read!

One quote that particularly resonated with me was: “Sometimes when people learning about physical computing hear that a particular idea has been done before, they give up on it, because they think it’s not original. What’s great about the themes that follow here is that they allow a lot of room for originality.” As someone still finding my footing in creative disciplines, I can relate to that instinct to get discouraged if you feel like you’re just retreading old ground. But the author makes a compelling case for why revisiting familiar concepts is worthwhile – there’s an endless well of creative variations to explore.

Rather than dismissing these well-trod paths as clichés, the piece argues that putting your own spin on an established idea can make it feel totally fresh and novel. I was particularly struck by the examples under “Mechanical Pixels.” The artistic possibilities of combining precise kinetic movements with immersive audiovisuals seems endlessly fascinating. Dan Rozin’s mind-bending mechanical mirrors sound like they blur the boundaries between interactive art and raw mechanism in some delightfully bizarre ways.

At the same time, I’ll admit some of the Greatest Hits left me a bit puzzled. I’m still not 100% sure I grasp the emotional motivation behind things like “Remote Hugs” that aim to convey intimacy over a distance. Maybe I’m just a cynic, but I have a hard time imagining any unhuggable object truly capturing that warmth and connection.

The whole catalog is a humbling reminder of just how much creative ground has already been covered in this space – but also how unmapped the frontiers of invention still remain. I can only hope that I can someday create my own trail.

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