Physical Computing: Inputs and Outputs

Module Description

This module will introduce students to fundamental principles of working with inputs and outputs for physical computing as it relates to the development of tangible interfaces and creative experiences. Students will use personal experience with everyday objects as case studies that enable identification and understanding of the presence, scale and role of different types of inputs and outputs within embedded devices. Students will be exposed to a range of input and output devices for physical computing.

Module Level: Introductory - requires no prior knowledge.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

  • identify types of inputs and outputs in physical computing;
  • integrate sensors and actuators into their projects using common circuits.
Suggested Learning Activities and Assignments

Demonstration Videos: This module includes four demonstration videos exploring basic concepts for digital and analog outputs and inputs.

Quizzes and Blog Posts: Following the demonstration video of each unit are suggested review questions covering key concepts and a blog post activity asking students to reflect on and apply what they have learned.

Hands-on Activities: Using what they have learned in the demonstration videos, students will basic circuits demonstrating key concepts which can be integrated built upon in the final independent project for the module.

Independent Project: Once students have completed the four units in the module they will be ready to design a personal experience supported by a tangible interface that includes the four elements explored in this module.


David Bouchard is an omnivorous New Media artist, technologist and educator. His work explores the expressive potential of computation, both in software and hardware forms. His research interests include data visualization, generative art, interactive and responsive environments, digital fabrication, display technology for public spaces, electronic music interfaces and wireless sensor networks to name a few. He holds a Bachelor of Computer Science from Concordia University and a Masters of Media Arts & Sciences from MIT. David is currently Associate Professor of New Media at Ryerson University.

Steve Daniels is an Associate Professor and Program Director of New Media in the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University. He uses electronics and communication technologies to create hardware agents, kinetic sculptures, ubiquitous spaces and networked events. He is currently interested in the non-utilitarian possibilities of DIY social devices. Steve has presented his work in galleries and festivals in Canada, the United States, Europe and Brazil.