Physical Computing

Physical Computing

An approach into learning and understanding how we humans communicate through computers; this starts by understanding how us humans express ourselves physically. The study is a hands on approach, meaning you spend a lot of time building circuits, program writing, structure building for sensors, soldiering, and trying to figure out how best you can make things relate to a person’s expressions.


Although it sounds very similar to robotics and the concepts used in building robots, physical computing is definitely very different. Robotics aim to replace humans with a ‘computer brain’, whereas physical computing aims to extend what that machine can do, which means we (the human brain/body) are still at the centre of the interaction.


Physical computing is when you construct interactive systems with the help of software and hardware, these two components are useful because you need to use plug-ins that can sense and acknowledge the ‘analogue world’. Although this definition is quite “broad”, Physical computing is basically a “creative framework” for coming to understand, humans and our relationships with the ‘digital world’. Physical computing tends to focus and depend more on people and the input we put into these systems, it aims to magnify the input, in another form, i.e. an animation. Physical computing revolves quite a bit around programming, graphic interfacing knowledge is also very useful when you’re looking into physical computing, as you’ll need to control sound and screen graphics that are produced from sensors. You’ll need to be comfortable with the following

What a ‘statement’ is, and how you use one

What ‘variables’ are when you look at computer programs and how you use them

What ‘repeat loop’ is, and how you use them, you will also need to be comfortable around phrases like for-next, while-wend, repeat while and end repeat.

When undertaking physical computing, you use programs like Macromedia’s Director and Java. Some people like to use Visual Basic, Real Basic, Python and even Pearl.


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