University of Technology Sydney

42070 Prototyping Physical Interaction

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Information Technology: Computer Science
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks

Anti-requisite(s): 41019 Prototyping Physical Interaction

Recommended studies:

basic programming knowledge is helpful, but no particular language knowledge is assumed


This subject focuses on the design, assessment and implementation of effective and elegant interactive physical devices. Students use a human-centred design approach to create, iteratively evaluate, and refine a series of prototype devices which use a variety of sensors, actuators and display methods to facilitate rich and complex user interactions and experiences. Students learn how to obtain and process data from sensors, and design the auditory, visual and haptic feedback that the prototype provides. By conducting iterative cycles of user assessment and feedback on the evolving prototype interactive system, students iteratively refine and finalise their prototype design.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Use a human-centred approach to develop requirements for an interactive system. (B.1)
2. Model an implementation of a physical interactive system. (D.1)
3. Embed sensors and process sensor data efficiently and effectively to support the user experience of a physical interactive system. (D.1)
4. Implement and assess sensory feedback from the interactive prototype. (D.1)
5. Communicate the capabilities of your designs and implementations effectively. (E.1)
6. Assess the usability and appropriateness of an interactive system through studying use in context. (C.1)

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the development of the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs):

  • Socially Responsible: FEIT graduates identify, engage, interpret and analyse stakeholder needs and cultural perspectives, establish priorities and goals, and identify constraints, uncertainties and risks (social, ethical, cultural, legislative, environmental, economics etc.) to define the system requirements. (B.1)
  • Design Oriented: FEIT graduates apply problem solving, design and decision-making methodologies to develop components, systems and processes to meet specified requirements. (C.1)
  • Technically Proficient: FEIT graduates apply abstraction, mathematics and discipline fundamentals, software, tools and techniques to evaluate, implement and operate systems. (D.1)
  • Collaborative and Communicative: FEIT graduates work as an effective member or leader of diverse teams, communicating effectively and operating within cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural contexts in the workplace. (E.1)

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject will take an authentic, project-based perspective on the development and user testing of prototype interactive systems. Class time will be devoted to the exploration of both technological methods for implementation as well as practical experience of methods for obtaining design feedback from users. Collaborative exercises, design exercises and technical experimentation will be undertaken within class to develop the design and implementation skills necessary. In addition, groups will collaborate to complete the central project as a team, by completing each of the individual and group assessment tasks, and within-class interaction will be the basis on which feedback on the prototypes is obtained. In week 1 and 2 there will be feedback provided on your developing project implementation model.

From time to time this subject will require preparation before attending class, including watching video lectures, doing research, developing designs and completing quizzes, so that during class time the student can engage fully in collaborative group and class exercises and discussions. Requirements for this pre-work will be posted in the appropriate sections of Canvas and will also be referenced in the program section of this subject outline.

Content (topics)

This subject covers the following content:

  • Basic programming techniques for prototyping systems.
  • Basic fabrication design techniques for building enclosures.
  • Human-centred design and methods for evaluating prototypes.
  • Analysing evaluation results.
  • Analogue and digital sensors and sensor data analysis.
  • Displays and audio systems Networks of prototyping systems.
  • Software techniques for analysing sensor data and responding to sensor input.

Learning this content is undertaken in the context of a central prototyping project, which will involve the implementation of a prototype, a user evaluation of the prototyping, and then the refinement and completion of the prototype.


Assessment task 1: Learning Journal


To develop familiarity with implementing sensor and display technologies and to capture learning that takes place within the collaborative sessions.


This assessment task addresses the following subject learning objectives (SLOs):

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

This assessment task contributes to the development of the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs):

B.1, C.1, D.1 and E.1

Type: Journal
Groupwork: Group, group and individually assessed
Weight: 60%

1. 1 to 2-minute (maximum) video tutorial

2. A 500 word (maximum) discussion board post with at least 2 diagrams

3. 2 to 3 minute (maximum) video tutorial

4. A 1500-word (maximum) plan for the user study, including any lists of questions, ethics consent forms, procedures and processes that would need to be followed.

5. A 500-word (maximum) reflection as a discussion board post

6. A 3 minute (maximum) video and a 1000 word discussion board post.

Assessment task 2: Physical Interaction Prototype Development


To develop a physical interaction prototype, and to obtain and analyse user study feedback on your prototype system.


This assessment task addresses the following subject learning objectives (SLOs):

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

This assessment task contributes to the development of the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs):

B.1, C.1, D.1 and E.1

Type: Report
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 40%

1 collated sprint contribution report of a maximum of 1000 words. Use the previously submitted sprint artefacts to demonstrate your contribution – but they do not contribute to the word count.

1 analysis report (3000 words)

This report should also include the group’s submission from Assignment 1 Task 4 which does not contribute to the word limit, as well as including any raw data or transcripts which also does not contribute to the word limit.

Minimum requirements

In order to pass the subject, a student must achieve an overall mark of 50% or more.

Recommended texts

IDEO, 2015, The Field Guide to Human-centred Design, IDEO, Canada. (Free e-book)


Bazi, M. 2009, Getting Started with Arduino, O'Reilly Media, Sebastopol, CA, USA.

Monk, S. 2014, Raspberry Pi Cookbook, O'Reilly Media, Sebastopol, CA, USA.

Margolis, M. 2011. Arduino Cookbook, O'Reilly Media, Sebastopol, CA, USA.

Igoe, T., 2007. Making Things Talk: Practical Methods for Connecting Physical Objects. Make, Sebastopol, CA, USA.

Moggridge, B., 2007. Designing Interactions. MIT Press, Cambridge, USA.

Norman, D. A. 2003. Emotional Design – Why We Love Everyday Things. Basic Books, NY.

Norman, D. A. 1990. The Design of Everyday Things. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, NY.