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This content is taken from the Lancaster University & Institute of Coding's online course, Introduction to Physical Computing. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds We live in a world where your watch can tell you to slow down, your phone can scan your vital signs, and your fridge can tell you what you should eat, how to prepare it, and even set the mood for a romantic night in. Physical computing is way more than the keyboard on your desk. It’s about a myriad of devices in your pocket, on your wrist, and even in the cities where you live. And the technology is more accessible to you than ever. Welcome to Introduction to Physical Computing. This two week course takes us back to the origins of physical computing, showing us what computers are made of and where computers are going.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds Hear from experts in the field on how they’re using technology creatively. And think about the decisions being made that will shape what computers can know about us and what they can do for us in future. But first, look around you. How many computers are there around you sensing or interacting with you right now? Join us, and join the conversation.

Welcome

We are excited that you have chosen to join us over the next two weeks to learn more about physical computing.

While the term ‘physical computing’ might be new to many of you, the fact is we live with and around physical computing every day and in almost every walk of life. Technology, coding, innovation and future developments of technology no longer reside inside computers, PCs, Macs or laptops. We carry computers in our pockets, wear them on our wrists, use them to power and control our living space, and even to run our cities.

What’s more, today physical computing is more accessible than ever. You don’t need formal qualifications, years of experience or access to expensive equipment to create a physical computing device.

In this course you will learn about the history of physical computing, and begin to look into the anatomy of a physical computing system. Through a series of simple case studies, you’ll explore what a computer is made of. You’ll also have the opportunity to discuss your own experiences of physical computing, and imagine future uses of it.

Meet the team

We’ve pulled together a team of educators from Lancaster’s School of Computing and Communications (SCC) to produce this exciting course. Between us we have years of experience in the fields of physical computing, embedded systems and the Internet of Things. We even helped to build one of the most modern and popular physical computing platforms - the BBC micro:bit!

Image of the educator teamEducator team Joe Finney, Lorraine Underwood and Steven Houben

Professor Joe Finney

Joe Finney is a Professor at the Lancaster University SCC. His research focuses on democratising access to technology, empowering anyone to innovate with new and emerging technologies. He regularly works with colleagues at Microsoft Research, ARM and Samsung and is a founding member of the product team for the BBC micro:bit which is helping to introduce physical computing to a whole new generation of young people. His previous work includes developing technology behind novel smart lighting displays used by artists to create interactive lighting installations, and he recently started a collaboration with Jack Irving to develop an immersive lighting installation for Blackpool Illuminations.

Lorraine Underwood

Lorraine Underwood is a Senior Teaching Associate in the SCC at Lancaster University. Lorraine has previously worked as a computing teacher in schools, and has written content for companies such as the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, Raspberry Pi and has just released her first book: Save the World with Code: 20 Fun Projects for All Ages Using Raspberry Pi, micro:bit, and Circuit Playground Express.

Dr Steven Houben

Steven Houben is a Lecturer in Interactive Systems. Together with his research team, he works on topics around cross-device computing, augmented reality, physical computing, and IoT (Internet of Things) systems. Steven’s work combines human-centred design and interaction concepts with new interactive systems, machine learning, toolkits and interaction techniques. He has collaborated with industry research partners such as Microsoft, Intel, Samsung, Bosch or Digital Catapult.

We’ll also be joined by guest experts and academics in the field of physical computing, who share their insight into how they’ve used technology creatively, and reveal the paths which led them into this dynamic and creative field.

  • Professor Sumi Helal, Chair in Digital Health at Lancaster University
  • Dr Rodger Lea, visiting researcher at Lancaster University
  • Bartek Szatkowski, Principal Software Engineer from ARM, Cambridge
  • Dr Teddy Syed, Post-Doctoral Researcher at Microsoft

Over to you

Now you know about us, we’d like to know about you! Use the Comments section to introduce yourself and share your motivation for learning about physical computing.

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This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to Physical Computing

Lancaster University