Product · Interaction · Environments Design
Fall 2016

Team Project with Cameron Burgess, Lucas Ochoa
Course: Environments Studio I
Instructors: Peter Scupelli and Austin S. Lee

CeeMat is a dynamic seeing mat for learning and understanding physical computing. It is a physical product that bridges the interaction between physical and digital objects through a touchable interface. It is a concept design developed to become integrated within learning environments of the future.
How do we design and envision learning environments of the future?

This project explores how online, physical and hybrid learning environments can be explored to create learning environments of the future. As teams, we focused on designing for students of Carnegie Mellon's IDEATE program located at the Hunt Library - in particular, the students taking the course Physical Computing. Some of the issues many new programs face revolve around funding, sharing of resources and spaces, culture, etc.
Physical Computing is a popular course within the program, however, it faces a drop out rate of ~40% during new semesters. Many students find it difficult to learn the material. Therefore, the issues we wanted to address were the lack of resource sharing and methods of improving the learning experience.

Developing digital tools that simplify and replace traditional learning that utilize physical tools.

We identified core issues students faced within the course and developed the concept of CeeMat, which is a physical, dynamic seeing mat that revolves around 3 core realms:
1. SeeingKit - the ability to use dynamic tools for seeing states and connectivity.
2. Digital Toolbox - digital prototyping of physical components.
3. Guided Learning - responsive step-by-step instructions.
Target Audience

To fully understand some of the difficulties faced by the students within Physical Computing, we conducted some preliminary interviews, while also attempted some of their classwork on our own to have hands-on experience with the course content.
Understanding the Problem

Existing forms of interactions in physical computing lab. Understanding user’s problems at a deeper level to design something powerful and useful.

Issues that Arise

- Lack of out-of-classroom learning tools for difficult material
- Not keen on staying in space to work
- Lack of resources as students tend to work at home after collecting limited parts
- Confusion added when trying to learn between materials - circuits, laptop handout, paper sketches and notes.


- Study natural, instinctive ways of learning
- Develop solutions to user-centered problems
Reference to Bret Victor's Seeing Spaces

- Seeing inside
- Seeing across time
- Seeing across possibilities
Environments that allow people to understand and ‘see’ what a complex system is actually doing. E.g. How do we know this circuit is working? What are powerful ways of seeing to enhance understanding?

CeeMat introduces a novel interpretation of hybrid environments where digital and physical components exist as a single, continuous material. The features of the physical mat address the existing problems physical computing students face.

1. Seeing Kit

The ability to use dynamic tools for seeing states and connectivity.

CeeMat has the ability to detect physical objects placed on its surface, and provide additional information if prompted by the user (shown in first video).

In the video below, the system is able to provide users with voltage and oscilloscope readings. Along with that, it prompts appropriate warnings and alerts when users face issues with their circuit - for example in this case, a overload warning.
2. Digital Toolbox

Digital prototyping of physical components.

As a user interested in physical computing, we may not always have all the components needed for play. CeeMat provides a digital toolbox that allows for circuit completion with your physical components. Towards the second half of the video below, a shopping assistant is also prompted - from which, the user would be able to purchase the appropriate components.
3. Guided Learning

Responsive step-by-step instructions

Below is an earlier prototype of the forms of guided learning tutorials that would exist in this interface. Our original designs were skewed as we experienced some resolution distortion between our designs and projection hardware. Inspired by existing traditional and modern forms of guided learning - from Lego building manuals to step-by-step play of Cooking Mama; we wanted to create a learning experience that reflected the same ease of use.

Process Documentation

First iteration of working prototype in video, along with photographs of working process.

CeeMat was presented during the School of Design's #CMUDesignWeek, and was featured on the school's Instagram and IDEATE's Twitter page.
Back to Top