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Old tools for new tangible interfaces



 :: What

Dibble is a service that allows the exchange of time, employment and knowledge between generations, through the use of traditional tools with new interactive behaviour. Dibble was created to help lonely elderly people with health problems to cultivate a plot in a vegetable garden. It helps them feel useful and active, transmitting their knowledge to young volunteers eager to learn the secrets of cultivation, and share the final results. It thus fosters a intergenerational exchange of experiences.


:: System

Configured as a club created and developed around an urban vegetable garden, the service operates through small teams of volunteers available to help elderly people when they request it. Each team is associated with a single elderly person who becomes the “master (or mistress) of the garden”.


:: How

Through the use of tangible interfaces the service allows the “master” non-verbal one-to-many communication with a team of volunteers who have the same instrument to respond to requests. For every positive response, the volunteer earns points which can be spent on surplus vegetables sold at the urban garden’s market. The tangible interface, which aims to solve the problem of communication between users of the service at the time of the request for help and of the response, is a conventional tool, a dibble (“foraterra” in Italian), which in addition to its normal function in the garden is equipped with new interactive behaviours. Inserted into the ground, and rotated, the Dibble selects and sends a request for help. This request is answered by the volunteer in the same way.


:: Future

This research provides the basis for imagining the use of Dibble and, more generally, of tangible interfaces and systems of simultaneous communication, non-verbal and one-to-many, for all those requests for small aid which in old age become increasingly valuable but are not sudden emergencies. It fills a technological gap between social alarms and mobile phones.

:: Report

(abstract in English, report in Italian)

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