Technologies for Creative Expression

Originally written for the National Endowment of the Arts Special Taskforce on Arts and Human Development
NEA Art Works blog post | Webcast archive of my public presentation hosted by the NEA

When I was 7 years old there were a lot of art materials around the house. Blocks, clay, paint, paper—I loved to make things. My grandmother was an artist and my grandfather an inventor, and I had caught the bug. I would squeeze and sculpt Sculpey, a polymer clay my grandfather had created, draw new creations in my notebook, and learn math by creating geometric patterns with my Cuisinaire rods.

I grew up and kept playing with the materials and tools that I loved. At Yale college I studied sculpture and conceptual art, and through an artist internship helped create a new children’s toy called ZOOB, which is the first construction toy based on things that grow. Children could create with ZOOB and reflexively learn about patterns and processes from nature, like how proteins fold and how skeletons move. They could bring their creations to life in their imaginations as they discovered what a century of life scientists had documented in papers and books. But while kids loved ZOOB, I noticed something was changing. It was the late 1990’s and more and more of children’s learning and play was being directed by electronic toys and media which followed predictable scripts–the buzzing of a horn, the sound of an alphabet–and didn’t allow for children to tell their own stories.

So I went back to school to learn how to create interactive media that support people’s creative expression. At the MIT Media Lab I joined the tangible media group and invented a series of interactive media and tools. Topobo is a constructive assembly system with kinetic memory. A construction toy in the spirit of ZOOB, but one that children can literally bring to life with a twist of their wrist. A child can make a dog, move its body in their hands, and watch the dog dance or walk, mimicking the motion they have taught it to do. Topobo helps kids learn new things. The same way stacking blocks helps kids learn how buildings stand up, Topobo helps them learn how animals walk, and how form is connected to motion. Kids know about this when they are little – they remember learning to crawl and walk – but usually we don’t give them tools to think about it until they are in college. With new toys like Topobo, they can start playing with these ideas when they are 4 or 5, and discover new patterns as they grow older.

As I was getting Topobo out to schools and museums around the world, my wife and I became proud parents of a newborn daughter. With her came the sad discovery that one cost of being more “mobile” was living far from family and being disconnected from them. Frequent trips from Cambridge, MA to California were tough, so I started making playthings for my baby which helped her get to know her far-away grandparents. Stuffed animals held familiar people’s songs; a photo album of her grandparents had a phone number they could call to leave stories, songs and messages. My daughter just had to touch their photos to hear them replay. But I didn’t know how to bring a deeper sense of connection to lots of people.

I moved to Nokia Research in Palo Alto, CA to make “Family Communication” the focus of my work. In 2008 we joined with Sesame Workshop and created a series of tools for families with young children to have stronger relationships even when they are apart. Storyvisit was one such tool, a free web site that coupled children’s story books and video chat. Families could hear and see each other, and also had something fun and understandable to do together: read a book! Children, sitting with their parents, could read along with a far-away parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle and get to know each other while they enjoyed some good books. Reading books was something everyone knew how to do, and something that could spark conversations. Tips for grown-ups would help them use the book to launch into conversations with the children. This is great both for kids’ learning and for family togetherness. Our feeling was that there is no one better to learn from than the family who loves you the most, and we could use technology and media to bring families together and help them to tell their own stories to each other. It was a success: we documented hundreds of happy families whose conversations went from 2-3 minutes on an ordinary video call to 15-20 minutes with StoryVisit. Ten times more time with the three year old you loved meant that much more time to know and love each other. Since then video chat technologies have gotten better and a few startups like Kindoma are working to bring this idea to families everywhere. 

As I was wrapping up this work I got a call from Google[x], at the time an almost unknown department of Google that a friend described to me as “the closest thing to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory in Silicon Valley.” Curious, of course, I went and met Astro Teller (“captain of moonshots”) and heard about the vision to create technologies with lasting cultural impact. I knew little about the details, but decided to take a chance and join the team. The small series of projects included the self driving car, and a project in wearable computing which has become Google Glass. The project challenged me, because it was so very intimate and personal in its nature, but also opened an opportunity for empathy through the wearer’s ability to share their point of view with people who are far away. The magic of a high quality camera that was ready-at-hand spoke to the artist in me, so I dedicated myself to making it a tool that people could use to tell their own stories.

For me, Glass is a platform for empathy and creative expression. Some of my favorite stories are from activists, parents, artists, and teachers who are using this new form of photography to share their experiences with people they care about. There are journalists using Glass to support democracy, such as when Tim Poole did live broadcasts of protesters in the streets of Instanbul. (Tim has been doing journalism for years – the difference with Glass is that when he talks to people they are talking to him and not to his camera.) There are artists like David Daytona using Glass to embed stories into their traditional artworks and give audiences a new point of view into his artistic intent. There are mothers using Glass to help far-away grandparents get a mom’s-eye-view of their newest granddaughter learning to lift her chin and smile at someone she loves.

Technology is changing so fast, and it’s hard to know exactly where it will lead. But I’ve always been inspired by Alan Kay’s quote that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” I hope to continue to bring an artist’s perspective to its evolution, so that the technologies we create do in fact become platforms for empathy, creative expression, and human connections.

Here is a public presentation of these ideas, presented by the National Endowment of the Arts.

Google Glass

Hayes led the interaction research team for Google Glass and was part of the core team from the time team members started making custom hardware through shipping our v1 and v2 hardware. He focused on developing new experiences which are uniquely enabled by the form factor. Wink to Photo and notification glance emphasized hands-free control. Entertainment (music and earbuds), novel input methods (eye gestures, head movement, voice and more), and Mini Games illustrate the Interaction Research, design strategy, technology development, and system prototyping Hayes’ team conducted.

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Story Visit

Story Visit is a website where children and long-distance loved ones can read story books together. Story Visit combines video conferencing and connected story books: when a grown-up turns the page, the child’s page turns along with it. If the child points to something on his screen, the grown-up can see that on her screen too. Now families can read stories together even when they can’t be in the same place.

Our research showed that conversations with 3 year olds increased from several minutes (in a typical video call) to 15-20 minutes when they used Story Visit. Reading books together really is more fun!

Flash+Arduino on Nokia n810

This tutorial will teach you how to set up a Nokia n810 internet tablet, and get flash swf files to control an Arduino board that is running the firmata 2.0 firmware.

Part 1:

How to set up your Nokia N810:

1.(optional) update your firmware


flashing the firmware will erase everything on your device, except for files placed on the mass memory card (ie dragged on to the device from the desktop). All installed apps will be erased. It’s a good thing to do if your tablet is (a) brand new, or (b) not behaving well, or (c) won’t install some software which requires newer libraries (i.e. skype).

go to: and download the latest build. right now it’s: RX-44_DIABLO_5.2008.43-7_PR_COMBINED_MR0_ARM.bin

For mac users, I mirrored the os X GUI flasher program here:

2. install some applications, using the app manager

open app manager and navigate through the menu to make the R&D tools visible

application manager > Tools > Application catalog > Maemo Extras Devel > uncheck the “disable” box

openssh (client and server). please make the password “admin

personal launcher (allows you to make icons on the desktop that launch scripts or apps)

other (optional) useful applications:

python (maemo-python-device-env)

-easy modules for python. high level access to camera, gui building, and other multimedia stuff.

-Jalimo, to run java applications

3. learn how to control n810 from your desktop machine,

i.e. establish an ssh tunnel to the n810:

Make sure the n810 is online. There is a wifi icon on the home screen. It should have bars lit.

launch settings > connection manager

get its IP address:

from connection manager, use the taskbar menu to go to: connection manager > Internet Connection > IP Address

copy down the ip address. e.g. mine is

from your pc, open a “terminal” application and open an ssh tunnel, e.g. from my mac I type

“ssh root@”

now you can program directly on the device through ssh. If you want to geek out, you can use apt-get instead of the application manager.

4. copy files to/from the device:

use an sftp or ssh program (like Cyberduck or Fugu) to copy files to/from the device. use the device’s IP address to connect to it.

by default, your files will be copied to /root.

It’s often nice to view your files using the n810’s “file manager” application, but your root folder is invisible to file manager. It’s best to copy your files to /user/home/MyDocs.

Note that you may have to change file priviledges (i.e. type “chmod 777 filename” in the terminal) to actually access them from the default “user” account that is logged in to the GUI.

5. install USBControl,

to put the tablet in “host” or “OTG” modes. This allows you to plug normal USB devices (keyboard, arduino boards) into the device. ( )

Install it from my mirror:

Open a browser window on your n810 and type in this address:

choose “open” from the dialog box. App manager should install it for you.

How to use it:

It will show up in the “extras” menu on the device.

“Host” mode is what you use when the arduino is attached.

“OTG” mode is what you normally use.

alternately, you can copy the file to your desktop with this link:

then use your favorite sftp client to copy it to this folder on the tablet: /user/home/MyDocs

then use the “file manager” application to navigate to this file. Double click on it to install.

6. learn how to become root from the gui (just fyi)

launch x-terminal and type ssh root@localhost. Then enter your password, “admin”

7. Now set up flash and arduino to talk to each other:

Part 2:

Get flash on the n810 talking to Arduino Firmata v. 2.0

The basic steps are:

1. install the ftdi kernel module

2. put the machine in usb host mode with usbcontrol

3. connect the arduino board to the n810, running firmata.

4. plug arduino in to the n810. it should turn on.

5. set up the n810 to talk/listen to the n810, i.e. using the serproxy program.

6. start flash and hope for the best.

The easy way to do this is to follow the instructions from Dave Vondle at IDEO Labs. Thanks Dave!

1. We’re going to follow Dave’s instructions,

but skp the part about soldering a cable:

2. We’ll change a few things to make it work with firmata:

a) as I mentioned, you will not solder your own cable. Instead, we will get usb gender changers (female-female USB A connectors) to connect the normal arduino cable to the normal n810 cable. These come from RadioShack or Fry’s. For example: 70534.jpg 576×638 pixels

b) we will replace Dave’s serproxy.cfg file with my version of the serproxy.cfg file, which can be downloaded from here: (from your mac/pc)

– or – (from your n810)

c) we will use the flash files and tutorials proviced by Bjoern Hartmann, which we used last week.

1. do your development and debugging on your desktop machine.

2. When things work, you can copy compiled swf files to the N810. Put them in /home/user/MyDocs, over an ssh tunnel, as explained earlier, and launch them from the File Manager, as Dave explains

3. make a desktop icon to launch the serproxy from the gui:

open “personal launcher” from the extras folder

click on the ‘ + ‘

Name = serial proxy

Command to execute = /home/user/MyDocs/serproxy

run in terminal = checked

type “ok”

close “personal launcher”

now there should be an icon on your desktop that will launch the serial proxy.

when you have your final flash file, you can add another icon to launch that from the desktop, too.

You’re done!

But here are some more details on the basic steps:

1. install the ftdi kernel module

the easy way: Do the last step “Flash new kernel image” on the page:

RomToolInstructions – ideo-maemotablet – Google Code

you will need the flasher program and kernel image from here:

or, the hard way, which has to be done every time you boot up:

insert the ftdi kernel module

with this code, tpyed from the device.:

insmod usbserial.ko

insmod ftdi_sio.ko

2. put the machine in usb host mode,

either using hardware (a custom cable you made) or software (using USBControl Application you just installed). You can do it from a script, too:

3. connect the arduino cable to the n810

you will need to buy an adapter at fry’s or radioshack. a usb gender changer (connector that’s female on both sides) will work to connect the standard n810 cable to the standard arduino cable.

4. set up the arduino to talk/listen to the n810. i.e. load the firmata firmware using your p.c.

5. plug arduino in to the n810. it should turn on.

6. set up the n810 to talk/listen to the n810, i.e. using the serproxy file from and launched with your personal desktop icon (#3 above).

7. start flash. From file manager, locate your file and double click on it. Or make a personal launcher desktop icon and use that.

Buckminster Fuller Toys

A few thoughts about Buckminster Fuller… He attributed his aesthetic development to his experience as a kindergartner. Here are a few images of kindergarten gifts, next to Fuller’s 1957 dome (click to enlarge):







There are a number of commercially available products and toys that people can try out and explore some of Fuller’s ideas. Here is Tensegritoy, one that comes to mind:


Other toys rooted in geometry include ZOOB and Topobo, and some other geometry related toys like ZOME. I think some of these could be creatively reappropriated so they become an educational or creative medium.


Ph.D. Thesis

mooseSculpting Behavior
A tangible language for hands-on play and learning

Public defense of Ph.D. thesis

December 11, 2007 10 a.m. MIT Media Lab, Weisner room, 2nd floor (map)
Watch a webcast of the oral presentation



For over a century, educators and constructivist theorists have argued that children learn by actively forming and testing – constructing – theories about how the world works. Recent efforts in the design of “tangible user interfaces” (TUIs) for learning have sought to bring together interaction models like direct manipulation and pedagogical frameworks like constructivism to make new, often complex, ideas salient for young children. Tangible interfaces attempt to eliminate the distance between the computational and physical world by making behavior directly manipulable with one’s hands. In the past, systems for children to model behavior have been either intuitive-but-simple, e.g. curlybot or complex-but-abstract, e.g. LEGO Mindstorms. In order to develop a system that supports a user’s transition from intuitive-but-simple constructions to constructions that are complex-but-abstract, I draw upon constructivist educational theories, particularly Bruner’s theories of how learning progresses through enactive then iconic and then symbolic representations.

I present the Topobo system, a class of tools that helps people transition from simple-but-intuitive exploration to abstract-and-flexible exploration. The system is designed to facilitate mental transitions between different representations of ideas, and between different tools. A modular design approach, with an inherent grammar, helps people make such transitions. With Topobo, children use enactive knowledge, e.g. knowing how to walk, as the intellectual basis to understand a scientific domain, e.g. engineering and robot locomotion. Queens, backpacks, Remix and Robo add various abstractions to the system, and extend the tangible interface. Children use Topobo to transition from hands-on knowledge to theories that can be tested and reformulated, employing a combination of enactive, iconic and symbolic representations of ideas.


Download Sculpting Behavior (high res) or (low res)


Thesis Committee

Thesis Advisor
Hiroshi Ishii
Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Thesis Reader
Mitchel Resnick
LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Thesis Reader
John Maeda
Associate Director of Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Hayes Raffle | Biography

Hayes Raffle is a Ph.D. candidate in the Tangible Media Group a the MIT Media Lab. He is a practicing artist and designer researching how interactive toys, systems and new devices can support hands-on communication, education, and creative expression.

Before attending the Media Lab, Hayes received a B.A. in fine arts (sculpture) at Yale, helped design and develop the award-winning
ZOOB® building system and ran his own art and design studio in California. He is the winner of several internationally recognized design awards and has shown his art in Europe and the United States.

hayes (at)



Topobo Griffon
Topobo system
Topobo mixed parts
Topobo moose+hands

While at the MIT Media Lab Hayes invented Topobo, a construction toy with kinetic memory, the ability to record and playback physical motion. Since 2008 he has managed Topobo Co. as founder and principal.

With Topobo, you can snap together Passive (static) and Active (motorized) components to invent your own Topobo creature and animate it by pushing, pulling, and twisting its body. For example, you can make a dog and then teach it to dance and walk by twisting its body and legs. With the push of a button, the dog will dance and walk by itself. The same way children learn how buildings stand by stacking blocks, they can learn how animals walk by playing with Topobo.

Watch the Topobo video.

{website | videos | brochure | press | awards | papers | images}


Hayes Raffle, Cati Vaucelle and Ruibing Wang
Paper, pens, paint and other physical media, microphone, speakers,
wireless transmitters and position sensing tablet, PC running custom software

Jabberstamp - girls drawing+recording
Jabberstamp drawing - annotated
Jabberstamp drawing

Jabberstamp is the the first tool that allows children to synthesize their drawings and voices. To use Jabberstamp, children create drawings, collages or paintings on normal paper. They press a special rubber stamp onto the page to record sounds into their drawings. When children touch the marks of the stamp with a small trumpet, they can hear the sounds playback, retelling the stories they have created.

Children ages 4+ can use Jabberstamp to embed names, narratives, characters’ voices and environmental sound effects in their original drawings. Children’s compositions help them communicate their stories with peers and adults, and allow them to record and situate stories in personally meaningful contexts to share with others, before they have mastered writing.

Winner, Honorable Mention from I.D. Magazine Student Design Review.

{ website | brochure | video | papers | press }

Getup Blocks

Getup Blocksgetup blocks knocked overclimbing on getup blocks

Getup Blocks automatically rebuilds a block tower that a child has knocked over. My one-year-old daughter Paloma loves to knock towers over (towers made of blocks, sand, anything). Sometimes I can build thirty towers in a row and never lose her attention.

Getup Blocks examines whether Paloma remains interested in knocking over towers that are not built by a person. Was her activity about interacting with the material or the person – or both? Based on about two months of observation with an early prototype, I think the social interactions are more important for her, but the machine has meaning of its own.

In its first version, Getup Blocks rises and falls very slowly in an organic and unpredictable way. The slow falling seemed especially interesting for Paloma, and she would sometimes stand on the base and wrestle with the blocks for a long time. Eventually she won these wrestiling matches and the motor burned out. This version (pictured) is more robust using clutches and stronger materials. Also, the blocks getup very slowly, but always fall fast now.

This project emerged from an Interactive Toy Design Studio I taught at the MIT Media Lab.

{website | video 1, video 2}

Teaching at MIT – Toy Studio


I teach an Interactive Toy Design Studio to MIT grad and undergrad students.

Have a look at images of students’ work, at the course website.

This studio introduces students to fundamentals of interactive toy design and introduce basic design techniques and principles. Students build several toy prototypes in this class. We review related theory from the fields of design, fine art, education and cognitive science, and focus on fast ideation and implementation of ideas. Some readings related to design and learning are required, but the majority of the course is spent doing hands-on building. The course compresses a full semester into three weeks of intensive, daily design studios.

Topics Include

  • toys in modern art, and toys invented by modern artists. Alice Aycock, Alexander Calder, Dennis Oppenheim, Picasso, Paul Klee, Jean Tinguely, James Seawright, Michael Grey, Allan Kapprow, Cindy Sherman, Claes Oldenberg, Frank Gehery.
  • toys as educational tools: manipulatives. overview of constructivist theories of learning, piaget. froebel, montessori, building toys, digital manipulatives.
  • kinetic art, mechanical toys and automata. overview of mechanism design.
  • fantasy, storytelling, character and story. dolls, action figures, stage, performance.
  • toys made from trash, toys made from reappropriated materials, and toys invented by kids.
  • subversive toys. and dystopic visions of play and invention. movies: brazil, toy story, blade runner, etc.
  • toy manufacturing
  • large scale toys, jungle gyms, architecture for play and body-scale learning toys (a la exploratorium)
  • electronic toys, computers for play
  • toy marketing: what sells and why?
  • toy design process from concept -> the toy store shelf

    Youre In Control (Urine Control) Interactive Gaming System

    Dan Maynes-Aminzade and Hayes Raffle
    Urinal, Electronics, PIC Microcontroller, PC gaming equipment running custom video game

    Playing You’re In Control

    The You’re In Control system uses computation to enhance the act of urination. Sensors in the back of a urinal detect the position of impact of a stream of urine, enabling the user to play interactive games on a screen mounted above the urinal.

    While urination fulfills a basic bodily function, it is also an activity rich with social significance. Along with the refreshing release it provides, the act of micturition satisfies a primal urge to mark our territory. For women who visit the bathroom in groups and chat in neighboring stalls, urination can be a bonding ritual. For men who write their names in the snow, extinguish cigarettes, or congregate around lampposts to urinate, urination can be a test of skill and a way of asserting their masculinity.

    Flush the urinal to play You’re a Nation, and drown political opposition as they campaign in key swing states.


    {website | video | paper}


    Jiggi a
    jiggi b

    Jiggi a

    Jiggi is a 3D modeling and visualization interface.

    Jiggi extrudes the Sensetable graspable interface into a 3d projection plane system. A Jiggi device, is a system which tracks the positions of intelligent objects on to multiple tabletop surfaces, and projects information onto these objects. This allows the combination and the advantages of physical interaction with the dynamic qualities of graphical displays in 3d. The use of a small electronically tagged magnetic Quill serves as a physical icon for the containment, transport, and manipulation of
    the 3d modeling data. In this case the data is Landscape Ecology information.

    The Jiggi unit is used to alter anything from spheres of watershed engagement to plotting wind course corrections. An ecological model is projected in multiple views at once thus providing sectional layouts and vector based information. Here the projections can be manipulated to alter the object or reveal hidden relationships.


    MIT Application Essay

    Sophisticated decision-making systems have evolved within our bodies and in other natural systems around us. DNA, protein interactions and chemical modeling are all examples of natural “spatial languages” that use physical form to communicate and make decisions. I believe it is possible to create a problem solving system that captures the intelligence of these natural decision-making schemas, and MIT’s Tangible Media Group is the ideal environment in which to create such a system. It would be an incredibly powerful and unique approach to problem solving because its analogs are evolutionarily proven in the natural world.

    The summer between my junior and senior years at Yale, I worked with conceptual artist Michael Joaquin Grey as his artist intern. Michael sought to bring dynamic modeling, which was only possible using computers, into physical space with a hands-on tool called Zoob®. ZOOB is an acronym for Zoology, Ontology, Ontogeny and Botany, and was an idea to create a haptic interface that had the complexity and dynamics of information behavior or living system behavior. I loved the idea and I approached the problem determined to find a solution. Over the next two months, I helped develop the abstract idea of Zoob into specific conceptual models with functional engineering solutions. A revolutionary system emerged that embodies dynamic relationships found in micro and macro systems such as DNA, bones, and the cosmos, and makes their complex interactions accessible and fun.

    After I finished my undergraduate studies, I moved to San Francisco and helped form Primordial, LLC, a manufacturing and design company that produced Zoob for the toy market. My duties at Primordial were vast; I began by inventing a way to communicate the system’s behavior on the printed page, and over the next three years I built and managed the company’s creative department and oversaw manufacturing quality control. In 1999, I left Primordial to return to my art practice. Zoob taught me about system behavior, and I have sought to understand the natures of other systems through making art.

    How is a whole greater than the sum of its parts? In trying to communicate complex, overlapping ideas, categorization is often necessary to break information into bite-sized pieces. However, this act of categorization destroys the relationships that may be the very essence of what makes the whole greater than its parts. In recent years this has become my intellectual focus, and I have sought answers to this question through my art practice. My creative inspiration comes from making objects, playing with them, and learning how they behave. In November 2000, my visit to the Tangible Media Group inspired me to learn to integrate electronics with physical media. I began comparing electronic and living systems, and I created several “Electronic Organisms” that evoke organic behavior using simple, recursive electronic circuits. The following July, while creating interactive science exhibits at the San Francisco Exploratorium, I severely injured my left hand in an industrial accident. This injury left me disabled. During my recovery I have been studying electromechanical control systems, which led to my creation of the “Solargarten” of self-sufficient electronic organisms. My healing process has given me a unique opportunity to contrast synthetic and natural systems while I watch my body grow with the aid of prosthetics. It has also led me back to the Media Lab.

    I returned to the Tangible Media Group in November 2001 and was very excited to meet Professor Hiroshi Ishii and learn more about his group’s focus; Ph.D. candidate Brygg Ullmer introduced me to his work creating Tangible User Interfaces for Manipulating Abstract Digital Information. In speaking with Mr. Ishii and Mr. Ullmer, I realized that it was possible for Zoob to model information. This is very exciting to me, because in its origin Zoob was an attempt to create a system that would reflexively bring people closer to understanding both real and information behavior. If Zoob successfully modeled information, it could harness decision-making strategies inherent in natural spatial languages such as DNA and proteins! Such a “Zoob-User-Interface,” or “ZUI,” could create an entirely new way of understanding complex problem solving.

    The potential for organic information-modeling systems is great, and TMG provides the ideal environment to develop such a system. TMG tackles tough problems with rigorous enthusiasm. The program has a strong history solving many of the important problems that a ZUI presents; this includes the definition of “meaning” in the system, hardware and software solutions to interface a modular, tangible system with computers, and the identification and application of specific complex problems. Furthermore, TMG’s work evinces clean design solutions that are integral to successful tools and interfaces.

    Further work is necessary to establish a clear direction for a ZUI, and I have the right sensibility for the project. A strength of mine, perhaps because of my experience as an artist, is my ability to synthesize different media to communicate complicated ideas. My work in business as a project manager and art director trained me to direct creative and technical teams to deliver results on time. I am confident in my ability to lead projects that demand precise design solutions within required time frames, while contributing an artist’s sensitivity to the aesthetics, meaning, and social ramifications of those solutions.

    A primary professional goal of mine is to redefine cultural awareness through meaningful integrations of design and technology. The successful implementation of a ZUI could redefine how people form ideas and solve problems. In 1848, the English high school math teacher George Boole developed a binary algebra and asserted that numbers can represent ideas. This spawned modern philosophical logic and the binary processes used by every computer today. If the Zoob system intelligently represents ideas, it too could be a powerful philosophical and computational tool. ZUI could move us from Boole’s binary, mathematical problem-solving paradigm to a tangible, organic one. On a large scale, society reflects the technology it creates, and we are seeing computers become so prevalent that people are starting to mimic them. ZUI could shift the computing medium to more closely match natural structures—structures that we have both evolved to use, and that we have used to evolve.

    ©2001 Hayes Raffle. ZOOB® is a registered trademark of Z Co.


    Metal, plastic, wood, machine parts, stove, cooking pot, soup.


    I met Arthur Ganson on a trip to the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and we started talking. He was organizing a chain reaction of mechanical events at the museum and asked if I’d like to contribute, so of course I said yes, because I’ve wanted to have something there since I was about five years old. I had been working on these little quirky walkers that have two feet and erratically make their way down a hill and I immediately thought to use them. My sculptures are generally cyclic but a chain reaction requires something linear, so it was a trick. I holed myself up in my studio for a couple weeks making all sorts of useless cyclical machines, and somehow thought to have the walkers all make their way into a big pot of soup like lemmings or soilent green. I made an elevator that picked them up in sequence and set them walking on the top of the hill, and the machine ended up looking like a big fertility goddess … she actually had a natural grace in the S-shaped movement she used to lift them to the top of the hill! The walkers are erratic and don’t always make it to the bottom smoothly, but I did manage to design a couple that could avoid the edges of the hill, so that was an exciting innovation.

    In the end, the crowd got very excited and cheered for all of my walkers’ successes. When the fourth one dropped in the soup, the pot fell on a burner that ignited beneath it and triggered the next machine in the show.

    Light Puddle

    Analog electronic circuitry and wood.

    Light Puddle

    Light Puddle is an electronic organism with both local and global behaviors. Light Puddle holds a fixed amount of energy in a densely interwoven web in which light flows into darkness. Your presence in front of the puddle will draw light towards you like water flowing into the depressions of a landscape.

    { Video }

    Hartford Atheneum (Hartford, CT) 2006
    ArtSpace Gallery (New Haven, CT) 2006
    Boston Cyberarts Festival (Cambridge, MA) 2003

    Tanya Starnes

    Tanya Starnes Corporate IDTanya Starnes Corporate ID

    Corporate ID

    Redeveloped the corporate ID for the law offices of Tanya Starnes. Ms. Starnes was looking for a bright, fresh and professional look.



    Rememberpen is a pen computing concept I developed while considering the ways computers could fit into my life more seamlessly.

    [kml_flashembed movie=”/wp-content/uploads/rememberpen.swf” height=”300″ width=”433″ /]

    When I first started thinking about how computers might be designed a more fluid part of my life, I threw together a concept animation for Rememberpen, a simple pen computing concept that is now nearly productized with technologies like Anoto. However, there is still no seamlessness between physical and digital media, and creative work in the area of interaction design is much needed to make our increasingly complex machines simpler to use.

    Print Production


    Technical expertise has attracted projects from Clients including Quicken/Quickbooks, Covad DSL, and Sony.


    Leapfrog Flash Magic


    Product Redesign, Flash Magic
    Leapfrog wanted a friendlier, more functional design for their flash card decoder.
     Asset Management
    Design and implementation of a visual database to manage and distribute thousands of graphic assets.




    supracor-cover.jpg supracor.jpg

    Graphic Design, Supracor Medical Products 2001 Catalog.




    Design and Fabrication, Corporate Gifts
    Babcock and Brown sought distiguished gifts to commemorate financing the Verbund hydroelectric dam in Austria. We worked with the German studio Konstruction & Design to produce ten models of the dam’s turbines that feature propellers that spin with the touch of a finger.


    R.F. Thompson

    Illustration, RF ThompsonIllustration, RF Thompson


    Created numerous illustrations to support writings by R.F. Thompson, a notable cultural historian of the African Diaspora in the Americas. Illustration and photography appeared in publications including African Arts Magazine and Res 32, the Harvard Anthropological Journal.


    Yale Sailing Merchandising

    Yale Sailing Burgee

    Yale Sailing Neck Tie

    Founder, Yale Sailing Merchandising
    Created a revenue-building division for the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club. Supervised production, marketing and sales of merchandise and established print and internet advertising.
     Product Design
    Designed and produced merchandising paraphernalia for the Yale Sailing Team and Alumni Associates.