Portrait of Nicolas Villar

Nicolas Villar

Senior Researcher


I am a senior researcher at Microsoft Research, based in Cambridge, UK. I co-lead the Connected Play initiative as part of the Human Experience and Design group.

I design and develop novel technologies, devices and systems that look to improve the experience of interacting and playing with technology.

I am particularly interested in the use of embedded systems – programmable microcontrollers, wireless communication, sensors and actuators – as building blocks in the design of physical interactive objects and devices.

Currently, our team is focused on exploring connected play – prototyping and developing novel technologies that enable new forms of play, social and entertainment experiences.





Previous Work

.NET Gadgeteer

Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer is a rapid prototyping platform for small electronic gadgets and embedded hardware devices. It combines the advantages of object-oriented programming, solderless assembly of electronics using a kit of hardware modules, and quick physical enclosure fabrication using computer-aided design.

More information about .NET Gadgeteer is available through the project’s website.


I was previously at the Lancaster University Computing Department, where I worked as a Research Associate and PhD student in the Embedded Interactive Systems research group. During that time I had the good fortune to be involved in a number of very interesting collaborative projects, including the Equator IRC, Pin&Play, Smart Surroundings and Smart-Its.


My PhD work was centred around the development of VoodooIO: a novel platform for flexible user interfaces that allows end-users to compose and adapt physical control interfaces in a manner that is both versatile and simple to use. With VoodooIO, users can quickly put together fully functional interfaces out of a pliable substrate material and physical control devices such as buttons, switches, sliders and dials. Every control is in fact a minimal computing device, equipped with small pin-like connectors at their base . By pinning a control into the substrate material, the control becomes connected to a power and communication network that is built into the substrate. Controls can be freely attached, detached and arranged in any orientation, even during use: physical attachment equals digital connectivity.