One important interface concept in ubiquitous computing are Tangible User interfaces. TUIs don't live on screens. They are physical things in the real world, which we can touch and with which we can interact. This interaction then invokes functions in a computer. For the design of physical things there is a science and a profession: product design. Coupling physical things to computers, on the other hand, is a topic for computer scientists and engineers. The most promising team for the design of a tangible user interface thus seemed to be a combination of product designers and computer scientists.
The teams were coached by a Diplom designer as well as a Diplom computer scientist, and progress was discussed in weekly meetings. After developing the initial design, more and more functional prototypes of the TUIs were built by the teams. Towards the end of the semester, a fully functional prototype from each group had to be demonstrated to the public.
Four of the project groups decided to design a TUI for the control of digital media, such as music, in a living environment. They each emphasized different aspects of the physical design and took different technical approaches. These four objects and their development process were presented in a paper at CHI 2005. One other group decided to build an interactive beer mat with which one could not only order another drink, but also vote and play pub games by simple physical gestures. This object was published in a poster at Ubicomp 2005 and triggered a storm of media response. The press craze started with an article in the british "New Scientist" and resulted in 3 TV features, more than 20 radio interviews and more than 100 citations in international print media, the most prominent of which was the front page of the German BILD newspaper.