This is my side-project for Student Design Challenge of 9th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction on which I worked with three other designers in our HCI program.

We designed a customer electronics called Colode Stylus along with an iPad painting app aiming to transplant traditional painting experience into digital devices. Our team was selected as finalist among all 77 teams, and also the one of 6 teams that finally managed to present the functional prototype in Stanford Design School. Our final deliverable consists of a native iOS app demo and a hardware prototype.

The Challenge

Imagine a digital present that takes full advantage of the capabilities of your hands and arms and deliver not only control, but also feedback about system it controls so that your user can take full advantage of the capabilities of her hands, both operating and learning from touch feel, and position.

--TEI 2015 Student Design Challenge: Tangible Remote Controls

Stage 1

focus on design tools

Since all of our team members are designers, we decided to focus our project on design tools. Design refers to a wide range of professions including artist, engineer, interaction/graphic/architect, craft, programmer who are all working on creating things. In order to explore the commonality of how designers in different industries use tools, and more importantly how usage of tools will affect the design process, we visited several professional home either by attending workshops, or asking photos from them during interviewing.

We found that in all these design professions, the designer always put their tools like pallete, various pens and knifes aside, so they can easily switch their tools to flexibly control the creation. More importantly, they mentioned that the efficient usage of tools will directly help their making follow their thinking.

I would like to put a few staple items like scissors and tapes on the desk and keep other remain in the box. I feel it would make my work more effective and efficient because I do not have to find them every time.
--Yixuan Wang, Florist
The ideal case is that all tools are placed in front of you in the desk, so I will have easy access to them. It's really upset if our thinking is interrupted because of switching tools, but it happens a lot.
--Xinyang Wu, Architect

Compare to painting with physical tools, the actions of digital painting and digital design softwares, such as changing layer, picking color, adjusting thickness are all happening on the screen, which largely reduce the simplicity and purity of drawing space.

Do you think you have made full use of your hands?

How about...

shifting some interactions to a stylus?

Stage 2

Our Concept

We designed a stylus pen with multiple tangible ways to adjust the color, thickness and pen type on the pen itself rather than in the screen. The tangible and physical operations provide artist a more intuitive drawing experience.

You can Pick up a color or texture from nature

The camera will give you direct feedback, and allow you to flexibly zoom in and zoom out.

You can adjust the thickness of stroke by simply turning the pen tip.

And now, draw whatever you want from the nature directly on iPad.

Stage 3


In order to get valuable feedbacks for our concept from our presentation in 9th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction, we needed to create a functional protype. We prioritized the features that our prototype will support given their importance and feasibility. Finally, we decided that our stylus prototype will support picking colors, adjusting thickness, and zooming in/out, while our iPad will allow users to draw with picked color and adjusted thickness.

My experience in iOS development, Image Processing Algorithm, Circuit Design and Arduino programming gained from my undergraudate study helped me a lot to overcome this challenge. Here is how our prototype works:

Finally we made it. It's amazing to the first stroke in the iPad with the color picked from the nature.

Stage 4


It's absolutely a great journey for us to be selected to present design and prototype at Stanford Also, the feedbacks are fantastic:

  • Will the users cannot afford our stylus because the miniature camera embeded in our stylus need to able to provide a high-quality image which means it will be much more expensive?
  • The duration for which our stylus processes the image should be short so that it will not interrupt the drawing experience.
  • Whether people are able to precisely point to the target by hands should be tested.

9th International Conference on
Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction.
Stanford University, Jan 15-19, 2015

Project Detail

Teammate: Frank He, Emma Luo, Kerri Zhang

Date: Fall 2014 - Winter 2015 (2 months)

Link: Product Detail, Video

I wanted to mention that your work on the Colode Pen is highly impressive. Maintaining this highly-active, curiosity-driven attitude is critical to engaging deeply with your work. It will ensure continued personal and creative growth throughout your career.

--Brandon Stephen Designer at Big Tomorrow, inc

My Contribution

I led our exploration including on-site observations and interviews, and actively particpated in the ideation phase. And I independently finished the hardware prototype including circuit design, Arduino programming, Image Processing Algorithm, and Serial Port Programming, and also took responsibility of integration of hardware and software prototypes via xCode.

My Reflection

I found that much more problems could be found after we present the prototypes, which push us to give more comprehensive consideration. That's why craftmanship is emphasized as an important quality of a great designer.