Project by: Connie Golsteijn - design as part of my PhD, mainly designed and prototyped during an Internship at 'Microsoft Research Cambridge'

Year: 2012

Duration: approximately 12 weeks as part of my PhD

My role: Individual project; I was responsible for the whole design process. I received help with the implementation of the .NET Gadgeteer prototype from the engineers at Microsoft.

My PhD was supervised by Prof David Frohlich, Dr Elise van den Hoven, and Dr Abigail Sellen.

Goal: create a crafting toolkit that allows for the building of creations that incorperate both physical materials and personal digital media.

Design: Materialise is a building set that enables the creation of combined physical and digital constructions. In addition to physical building, digital media can be brought into crafting activities. Physical building blocks consist of 'active building blocks' – which either display a digital image or a series of images, or play an audio file or a series of audio files – and 'passive building blocks' – which provide a great diversity of building possibilities in different materials and shapes to use in combination with the active blocks for the creation of physical compositions. Active building blocks are wirelessly connected so that related digital media can be compared and showed at the same time across different blocks. In addition, there is a software component for the active building blocks that allows people to explore their composition digitally.

Publication: This design resulted in the following upcoming publication: Golsteijn, C., Hoven, E. van den, Frohlich, D. and Sellen, A. (2013). Hybrid crafting: towards an integrated practice of crafting with physical and digital components. To appear in Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, Special Issue: Material Interactions. See Publications for more details.


The suitcase that contains the complete Materialise building set

Three active blocks were implemented for the prototype: two image blocks and one audio block. All blocks were implemented using the .NET Gadgeteer prototyping platform

The casings for the active blocks were 3D printed

Back of the image block

The active blocks

Assembling an active block

The software component allowed people to start exploring their composition digitally. Blocks could be moved and rotated on the screen and media could me dragged to the blocks. The software was also the upload tool for media.

Other physical building blocks

Several magnetic Lego connectors were created to allow for the inclusion of Lego bricks

Active blocks were wirelessly connected so that related media would always show at the same time on the seperate blocks.

Example of a Jamaica-themed creation in a workshop done with the building set

Example of combining building materials and exploring new possibilities