Catch & Release: Capturing & Understanding Human Experiences

Session Title

Catch & Release: Capturing & Understanding Human Experiences


Kendra Shimmell, Lextant

Session Type: Presentation

What is the future of interaction design? I propose that it’s movement — natural, fluid interactions — your body interfacing with the environment around you.

As an interaction designer, I understand the inherent drawbacks of hardware-based interfaces — the range of movement is limited and it is frankly kind of lame to be bound to a device.

In 2001 I became involved with the Environments Laboratory at The Ohio State University. Our focus was to explore movement analysis, motion capture, and interactive performance. Since then, I have befriended a few choreographers that have been developing very sophisticated tools to explore the reality of the human body as interface.

Some questions that I’ve been exploring:
Can we obtain meaningful data on human motion? Is there a design research implication? What are the potential industry applications for this type of technology? Can gesture and movement be standardized (Laban Movement Analysis and American Sign Language)?

Join me in exploring the human body as interface. You will get to try it out (yes, control light and sound with your body), and I will lead you in a workshop to explore the more practical use cases for such a technology moving forward.


My unique combination of skills allows me to move fluidly between design research and interaction design. While at lextant, I have worked on diverse projects including health care systems, retail environments, medical devices, financial service design, and enterprise management applications.

I am responsible for both account and project management, however my true passion is in designing solutions that resonate with consumers. I’ve been told that I have an innate ability to immerse myself in the consumer’s domain. My sensitivity to both implicit and explicit communications between people, artifacts, and context of use allows me to excel in identifying patterns, breakdowns, and opportunities.

On the client level, my goal is to align interdisciplinary teams around a common goal by facilitating communication across the disciplines of marketing, business, design, and engineering. I have established productive partnerships with companies such as Cardinal Health, CheckFree, Cordis, Dell, Diebold, Hewlett-Packard, Hollister, Hunter, Moen, Nationwide Insurance, and GE Healthcare.


  1. Taylor
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    The topic sounds very relevant. Her partnership with the Environments Laboratory and work with choreographers should bring a new, added dimension to a topic that is receiving a lot of buzz.

  2. Lada Gorlenko
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Sounds very interesting and Kendra is a great presenter — yay from me.

  3. Wyatt Starosta
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    The body as an interface is something I have been trying to learn more about. I’m looking forward to seeing more discussion around this topic.

  4. Persephone Rana
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I have known Kendra for many years and watching her progress through those years has literally blown my mind. The one characteristic that has always stood out for me about Kendra is her unique ability to see the role of humanity in the use of technology. She has always kept people and their needs at the forefront of her thinking on what technology can do for us, and not how we can change ourselves to fit the technology. That perspective makes me feel excited about the future and not apprehensive about it. She has always been a dancer as well and studied human movement, so that gives her an innate knowledge on this subject. Good Luck!

  5. Gordon Nichols
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    This seems to be an interesting approach, I would like to see more about the “Human body as an interface”. Pattern recognition in both body actions and physical movement could lead to some fantastic games or other application.

  6. Posted September 18, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Kendra, as an EGD designer, how people interact / interface with their environment is very important to our facet of design. For WAYFINDING purposes (exterior or interior), whether someone is interacting with a handheld device, directory or sign program it is crucial to understand how they are impacted (positively / negatively) by these resources. Will these resources be evolving in the coming years? Absolutely. Your session on Human Experience would be a good one to attend and enlightening I’m sure to Environmental Graphic Designers. I’d suggest sending an announcement to our professional org SEGD (Society of Environmental Graphic Designers) out of DC.

  7. csproat
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    An interesting topic to ponder!
    Some of the most ground-breaking interfaces of late have used human motion (wii), so this would be an interesting session.

  8. Joshua Norman
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Untethered interactions with objects and space through movement: It sounds like an evolution on the blue bodysuits with sensors that actors wear to track movements to make video games… but useful. Cool.

    Super cool if it learned what you meant when you moved and gestured rather than you having to learn full body Palm script.

  9. Posted September 18, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    This proposal asks EXACTLY the right questions while offering hands-on experiences to visitors. I have seen the system she is bringing, and it is REALLY interesting in a design context.
    The human body interface: while no one doubts its future — that it is ultimately the an essential and powerful approach to design development — it has, until now, met with only limited practical success. Why? For one, as Ms. Shimmell points out, hardware-based systems tend to be cumbersome and gimicky. She has right idea: video-based motion tracking keeps the body free from hand-held or clothing-based electronics.
    The question, “Can we obtain meaningful data on human motion?” hits the nail on the head and I think it is important to have tangible hands-on experiences if we want to move towards an answer. This is precisely what she is proposing.

  10. Derren
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    The human body as interface and no longer being bound by the device….ah yes, I would like to hear more on this. Given Kendra’s background and experience, I’d say anyone attending this presentation would be in for a treat.

  11. jooyoung
    Posted September 19, 2009 at 12:52 am

    This sounds interesting. I’d love to see a gesture library and the application of it to improve our everyday life interaction with things, spaces and people. Go Kendra. Give us a reason to visit Savannah too.

  12. Mark Hall
    Posted September 20, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Yes. very intersting…. good luck

  13. Karen Shimmell
    Posted September 20, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    My daughter has always been able to think beyond the box. Even as a toddler, she was thinking of better ways to do things. And this has never stopped. She still isn’t at the top of her game! She has such a creative mind and I think this idea of the human body as interface with technology is in infancy and Kendra will help it grow. You go my Girl!!! Let’s hear more from “the knowing woman”!!!

  14. Paula
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Very interesting Kendra! As our world has become so integrated with digital media to arrive at new applications to share and/or give meaningful information through interactions and our own experiences … the future will soon be here! Congratulations

  15. Lori Dann
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 8:34 am

    How interesting. This idea and presentation is a natural fit for Kendra. Anyone attending would not only walk away learning alot but would enjoy the process.

    Good luck!

  16. Shirley
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Kendra’s description of her workshop makes me want to attend! It’s cool that she follows through with an interactive element (contrilling light and sound with your body). This should be an attractive and enlightening workshop.

  17. Gregory Holmes
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I like the idea of being independent of any hardware devices. Im interested to see where this research is going. Also, ditto on Kendra being a great presenter.

  18. Posted September 22, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Kendra’s presentation sounds fantastic. My personal work is geared toward the investigation of physical computing environments, so Kendra’s research is of particular interest to me. Excellent work, Kendra!

  19. Caleb Boller
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Seems to be an intriguing topic; having the body act as the sole controller of a visual/audible interface, I’d love to hear the details about the topic.

  20. Amy Hillman
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I’d really love to see this presentation, and I’m sure Kendra would rock it. Gestural interfaces and the human body? Sounds fascinating. Hoping to attend…

  21. Jessica
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    There is definitely an interesting conversation to be had here. I love the idea of getting us away from being “button pushers” and actually moving and interacting with objects and space – what the human body was designed to do!

    I am very curious to learn about the different spaces that fit well with this concept, and also the spaces that don’t fit well with it. Does it work for paying my cable bill as well as it does for more fluid or metaphorical gestures?

    Sure to be a great presentation. Good luck, Kendra!

  22. Posted September 24, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Hey Kendra. I hope you get to present this session. It sounds interesting and I wish I could join you. I think its really interesting to think about movement and gestural interfaces not in terms of creating the next bespoke product, but to work towards defining a framework for gestural interfaces that involve the entire body and is sensor agnostic.

  23. Katie Kimble
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Kendra, you never cease to amaze with your level of creativity and ingenuity. This workshop sounds like a very practical exploration of the human motion and its effect on everyday experiences… yet I’m sure it’s something that few people have considered. This is a great start to learning how these experiences can be improved… and fun! The activity portion of the workshop sounds like a great way of getting everyone involved. Much better than the typical presentation. I can’t wait to see the video if there is one!