Bits are Cheap, Atoms are Expensive: Critiquing the Turn Towards Tangibility in HCI

Lars Holmquist*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Ever since the introduction of the desktop interface, HCI has strived to develop alternatives that make interacting with computers more physical, embodied and ubiquitous. In particular, the vision of tan- gible user interfaces (TUI) has had a large impact and inspired an extensive body of research over the last 25 years. However, de- spite strong interest from the research community, commercial success has been limited. We argue that the reason is that whereas graphical user interfaces are inherently cheap, physical interfaces are expensive: to create; to control; to modify; to maintain; and to mass-produce and distribute. This also leads to TUIs being highly problematic from a sustainability viewpoint. Finally, as a way to combine the best of both worlds, we introduce a vision of liber- ated pixels, which are visual output elements that are perceivable, addressable, and persistent in the physical world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExtended Abstracts of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’23)
EditorsAlbrecht Schmidt, Kaisa Väänänen, Tesh Goyal, Per Ola Kristensson, Anicia Peters
Place of PublicationNew York, US
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781450394222
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2023
EventACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Hamburg, Germany
Duration: 23 Apr 202328 Apr 2023


ConferenceACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Abbreviated titleCHI 2023
Internet address

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