TRKBRD: From Idea to Conception with Physical Prototyping

Session Title

TRKBRD: From Idea to Conception with Physical Prototyping


Rob Nero, Malmö University

Session Type: Demo

Physical prototyping allows you to see and touch your design. You don’t have to pretend to use your design in order to test it, you can touch your design and feel the interactions firsthand.

My final project, in my first year of grad school, started as a theoretical idea for a brand new way to interface with a portable computer. The interface had never been done before, so there wasn’t hardware available for me to realize my idea or even test it with people. The only way to realize my idea physically was to use the Arduino electronics prototyping platform and create the interface device myself. With a lot of research, testing, and talking with other Arduino users, I brought my idea to fruition, the TRKBRD (trackboard) was born!

During my demonstration, I will give a short presentation of the TRKBRD project from start to finish, demonstrate the final physical prototype, and show the various components of the Arduino platform. I will show how the TRKBRD started as an idea and finished as a fully-functioning physical prototype. People will be able to try the TRKBRD and get their hands on the Arduino components.

The TRKBRD design gained international attention through the Arduino, MakeZine, and Engadget blogs. Compared to other touch and gesture sensing technologies available today, the TRKBRD offers a new approach for finger detection. A simple google search for “trkbrd” will give you links to the various articles. What started as a design project has morphed into a quest to get the attention of computer manufacturers worldwide to design better input devices for portable computers. The website has been created to collect feedback and interest on the design.


Rob is currently working on his Master’s thesis at the Interaction Design Masters program at Malmö University, in Malmö, Sweden. Before deciding to move to Sweden, he designed enterprise web applications for large and Fortune 500 companies for 10 years. Rob’s design projects while attending the Masters program include a music remix web site that was used in a national campaign for refugees, a Bluetooth-enabled music distribution box for an inner-city hip-hop club, and multiple physical prototyping projects with the Arduino platform.

After graduation in 2010, Rob is seeking employment opportunities in the physical and tangible interface areas. He hopes to continue his work in rapid physical prototyping, electronics, and people interaction in every adventure and future employment.


  1. Angel Anderson
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I’m really interested to see the prototype and see it in action on a variety of surfaces including skin, hair, etc. From what I hear, even NO surface will work, just in the air! Hope this demo gets picked.

  2. Posted September 15, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I’s very rare that a new UI concept is brought into this world, so featuring a concept of this character would undoubtedly garner attention.

    It would certainly be a pleasure attending and seeing a functional version, after following the hype on the web.

  3. Posted September 15, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Neat! If you get picked, you should use this opportunity to talk a bit about your experiences with Arduino – while your demo itself is great, there’s also a wonderful opportunity here to encourage folks at the conference to start making their own “theoretical ideas” into reality. Hope to see this.

  4. Posted October 2, 2009 at 2:18 am

    Well, I’ve seen it, I’ve played with it, and it’s definitely worth showing to the world!
    And like Anders said, it’s not often that a new input device concept gets developed!