Kimiko Ryokai

Associate Professor


Human-computer interaction, tangible user interfaces


Current Research

My field of research is tangible embodied computing, a subfield of human-computer interaction (HCI). I study representation, physicality, and interactivity of personal data and information systems, particularly in the context of mental health, social networks, and educational applications. 


B.A., Linguistics and Psychology, SUNY Stony Brook, 1997
M.S., Media Arts and Sciences, MIT, 1999
Ph.D., Media Arts and Sciences, MIT, 2005

What is the best thing about working at the I School?
There are so many things: first of all, the I School’s multidisciplinary yet strong academic curriculum, from theory to practice. Being part of the youngest school on campus that is constantly redefining itself is exciting. And of course, its amazing students and faculty members who are passionate about their endeavors.

What Information issues interest you most?
I am interested in the representation of information and how that representation influences the way people think about and work with the information. In particular, I am interested in how new user interface designs, such as tangible user interfaces, transform abstract and intangible information into more concrete and manipulable forms so that it can help people organize and manipulate ideas in a way the traditional media or the desktop interface could not.

Your background is in Linguistics and Psychology, what ignited your interest and subsequent research in interactive media?
When I took my first HCI course as an undergrad majoring in Linguistics and Psychology, I was so excited about the potential social scientists had in being part of the design of technologies. Since then, I have been striving to achieve the balance between the designer, inventor, and scientist in me.

In your class, Interface Aesthetics, you look at how good design enhances the interaction between people - can you give us an example of "good design" and tell us why it works?
Many say that good design comes from a marriage of function and beauty. Good design can also fulfill our emotional needs, and can even stand for who we are as humans. In addition, I would like good design to be something that can grow old with us.

Something few people know about you?
I grew up in Tokyo, Japan. When I was in high school, I spent 10 months in Texas as an exchange student. I lived with a wonderful host family on a ranch near Corpus Christi. That was my first original American culture experience.

What keeps you up at night?
“What if...?” questions.