Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 1515–1532 | Cite as

Designing reality-based interfaces for experiential bio-design

  • Orit Shaer
  • Consuelo Valdes
  • Sirui Liu
  • Kara Lu
  • Kimberly Chang
  • Wendy Xu
  • Traci L. Haddock
  • Swapnil Bhatia
  • Douglas Densmore
  • Robert Kincaid
Original Article


Reality-based interfaces (RBIs) such as tabletop and tangible user interfaces draw upon ideas from embodied cognition to offer a more natural, intuitive, and accessible form of interaction that reduces the mental effort required to learn and operate computational systems. However, to date, little research has been devoted to investigating the strengths and limitations of applying reality-based interaction for promoting learning of complex scientific concepts at the college level. We propose that RBIs offer unique opportunities for enhancing college-level science education. This paper presents three main contributions: (1) design considerations and participatory design process for enhancing college-level science education through reality-based interaction, (2) reflections on the design, implementation, and validation of two case studies—RBIs for learning synthetic biology, and (3) discussion of opportunities and challenges for advancing learning of college-level sciences through next-generation interfaces.


Reality-based interaction Multi-touch Bioinformatics Collaborative learning Synthetic biology 



We thank the students who contributed to this work: Nahum Seifeselassie, Casey Grote, Linda Ding, Nicole Francisco, Veronica Lin, Madeleine Barowsky, and Taili Feng. We also gratefully acknowledge Natalie Kuldell from MIT and Dave Olsen from Wellesley College who provided advice and support. Finally, we thank the Boston University and MIT iGEM teams. This work was partially funded by NSF Grant No. IIS-1149530 and by a grant from Agilent Technologies.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Orit Shaer
    • 1
  • Consuelo Valdes
    • 1
  • Sirui Liu
    • 1
  • Kara Lu
    • 1
  • Kimberly Chang
    • 1
  • Wendy Xu
    • 1
  • Traci L. Haddock
    • 2
  • Swapnil Bhatia
    • 2
  • Douglas Densmore
    • 2
  • Robert Kincaid
    • 3
  1. 1.Wellesley CollegeWellesleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Agilent LaboratoriesPalo AltoUSA

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