HCII PhD Thesis Defense "Making Fabrication Real: Fabrication for Real Usage, with Real Objects, by Real People"

Xiang Anthony Chen

Friday, November 17, 2017 - 10:00am
Newell-Simon Hall 1507
Thesis Committee:
Scott Hudson (Co-Chair), HCII
Stelian Coros (Co-Chair), ETH Zurich
Jodi Forlizzi, HCII
Tovi Grossman, Autodesk Research

The increasingly personal and ubiquitous capabilities of computing—everything from smartphones to virtual reality—are enabling us to build a brave new world in the digital realm. Despite these advances in the virtual world, our ability as end-users to transform the physical world still remains limited. 

The emergence of low-cost fabrication technology (most notably 3D printing) has brought us a dawn of making, promising to empower everyday users with the ability to fabricate physical objects of their own design. However, the technology itself is oblivious of the physical world—things are, in most cases, assumed to be printed from scratch in isolation from the real world objects they will be attached to and work with. 

To bridge this ‘gulf of fabrication’, my thesis research focuses on developing fabrication techniques with design tool integration to enable users to expressively create designs that can be attached to and function with existing real-world objects. Specifically, my work explores techniques that leverage the 3D printing process to create attachments directly over, onto and around existing objects; a design tool further enables people to specify and generate adaptations that can be attached to and mechanically transform existing objects in user-customized ways; a user-driven approach allows people to express and iterate structures that are optimized to support existing objects; finally, a library of ‘embeddables’ demonstrate that existing objects can also augment 3D printed designs by embedding a large variety of material to realize different properties and functionalities. 

Overall my thesis aspires to make fabrication real—enabling people to express, iterate and fabricate their designs that closely work with real-world objects to augment one another.   

Queenie Kravitz