While being in the north of England I stopped by in Newcastle at the Culture Lab. If the CHI-conference is a measure for quality in research in Human Computer Interaction Culture Lab is currently one of the places to be – if you are not convinced have look at Patrick Olivier’s publications. The lab is one of a few places where I think a real ubicomp spirit is left – people developing new hardware and devices (e.g. mini data acquisition boards, specific wireless sensor, embedded actuators) and interdisciplinary research plays a central role. This is very refreshing to see, especially as so many others in Ubicomp have moved to mainly creating software on phones and tables…
Diana, one of our former students from Duisburg-Essen, is currently working on her master thesis in Newcastle. She looks into new tangible forms of interaction on table top UIs. Especially actuation of controls is a central question. The approach she uses for moving things is compared to other approached, e.g. , very simple but effective – looking forward to reading the paper on the technical details (I promised not to tell any details here). The example application she has developed is in chemistry education.
Some years back at a visit to the culture lab I had already seen some of the concepts and ideas for the kitchen. Over the last years this has progressed and the current state is very appealing. I really thing the screens behind glass in the black design make a huge difference. Using a set of small sensors they have implemented a set of aware kitchen utensils . Matthias Kranz (back in our group in Munich) worked on a similar idea and created a knife that knows what it cuts . It seems worthwhile to exploring the aware artifacts vision further …
 Gian Pangaro, Dan Maynes-Aminzade, and Hiroshi Ishii. 2002. The actuated workbench: computer-controlled actuation in tabletop tangible interfaces. In Proceedings of the 15th annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology (UIST ’02). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 181-190. DOI=10.1145/571985.572011 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/571985.572011
 Wagner, J., Ploetz, T., Halteren, A. V., Hoonhout, J., Moynihan, P., Jackson, D., Ladha, C., et al. (2011). Towards a Pervasive Kitchen Infrastructure for Measuring Cooking Competence. Proc Int Conf Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare (pp. 107-114). PDF
 Matthias Kranz, Albrecht Schmidt, Alexis Maldonado, Radu Bogdan Rusu, Michael Beetz, Benedikt Hörnler, and Gerhard Rigoll. 2007. Context-aware kitchen utilities. InProceedings of the 1st international conference on Tangible and embedded interaction (TEI ’07). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 213-214. DOI=10.1145/1226969.1227013 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1226969.1227013 (PDF)