Supplemental material for IEEE ISM Paper #116

Water Jets as Pixels: Water Fountains as Both Sensors and Displays

Eighth IEEE International Symposium on Multimedia (ISM'06), pp.766-772

Steve Mann, Michael Georgas, and Ryan Janzen, University of Toronto, Canada

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We propose a hydraulic user interface consisting of an array of spray jets and the appropriate fluid sensing and fluid flow control systems for each jet, so that the device functions as a fluid-based tactile user interface. Our array of fluid streams work like the keys on a keyboard, but where each fluid stream can also provide tactile feedback by dynamically modulating the pressure of the fluid spray, so that the keyboard is actually bi-directional (i.e. is both an input and an output device).

A 104-jet version can be used as a fun and tactile "QWERTY..." style keyboard. More importantly, however, the device can also be used for applications, such as musical instruments, where its more expressive multi-dimensional input capabilities can be put to full use.

One such instrument, the hydraulophone (hydrauliphone, hydraulaphone), is a hollow tubular object with a row of holes in it. It is played much like one would play a tin flute or recorder, by covering up the holes to restrict fluid flow.

This gives rise to a fun new way of playing music by successively blocking water jets in a fountain, or while frolicking in a pool, or splash pad. Additionally, the hydraulophone can be used as a teaching tool to help children learn music by playing in the water. We demonstrate this teaching capability by way of an implementation of the arcade game "Touch Me" using a hydraulic user interface.

We describe some of our present and upcoming installations of these devices in public parks, pools, and aquatic play areas.


Steve Mann, Michael Georgas, Ryan Janzen, "Water Jets as Pixels:
Water Fountains as Both Sensors and Displays," ism, pp.766-772,
Eighth IEEE International Symposium on Multimedia (ISM'06), 2006.