The Project

Social interactions between individuals are a substantial and important aspect of personal well-being and family cohesion. However, families are increasingly geographically separated, due to job requirements, international marriages, health issues, or political circumstances. Existing audio and video communication technologies over distance lack further qualities that are inherent to co-located social interactions, many of which are associated with the physicality of our world, i.e., our (shared) interaction with material artifacts.

Our vision: Designing Hybrid Boardgames and Toys for Remote Engagements

Within this project, we research how to enable tangible remote social interactions. Thereby, we focus on interactions that are essentially characterized by a tangible / physical engagement over distance. We specifically focus on the quality of remote relationships to foster intimate intergenerational relationships and well-being. In order to explore physicality in remote interactions, we investigate the potential of play as it is deeply embedded in our social and situated practices.

In this project, we will focus on two forms of play: board games and toys. Both have recently witnessed substantial changes. With the digitization of games, a de-materialization of previously purely physical board games and toys took place; they conquered the market and enabled dislocated play. Recently, a re-materialization of previously digitized artifacts began to take place, rethinking the combination of the digital and physical world towards hybridity.

However, most hybrid games and hybrid toys do not fully harvest the potential of their digital components and the computational power added to physical play for creating new forms of remote communicative play patterns. Existing instalments of hybrid games use their computational add-ons only in a very limited way, by simply adding visual augmentations, rather than enabling new kinds of interactions and physical engagements. In order to overcome these limitations, the following research question is of major interest in the project:

How can we bridge the gap between (remote) digital and physical interactions by designing concepts for dislocated tangible play?


During this three-year project, we aim to:

  • explore tangible materials that can support dislocated physical experiences
  • research how such playful interactions can support grandparents and grandchildren in building and maintaining meaningful relationships over a distance
  • yield new designs that will be evaluated with grandparents and grandchildren to address actual use and understand the effects of these new playful materials on their relationship


Project Information

re:tangent is a joint project between the Center for Human-Computer Interaction, University of Salzburg, Austria, and the Meaningful Interactions Lab (Mintlab), KU Leuven, Belgium.

The financial support by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): I 3580-N33 and the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) is gratefully acknowledged.


Logo Mintlab


Verena Fuchsberger
Center for HCI
Universität Salzburg
Jakob-Haringer-Straße 8 / Techno 5
5020 Salzburg