Portrait of Nicolas Villar

Nicolas Villar

Senior Researcher

About

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.

Projects

Project Torino

Established: July 1, 2015

An inclusive physical programming language for children with vision impairments Because technology is embedded in every aspect of daily life, computer science education in schools is a growing focus. In recent years, there’s a movement to teach children both computational thinking as well as how to code. This drive has motivated the development of programming languages specifically for children, so they can learn coding both within and outside of school. The vast majority of these…

Circuit Stickers and Conductive Printing

Established: September 1, 2013

Circuit stickers and conductive printing provide an accessible way to rapidly prototype all sorts of electronic circuits. We use a regular inkjet printer to instantly create conductive traces on regular photo paper and combine this with a special type of double-sided tape to stick down electronic sub-circuit elements which we imagine would be sold as a kit for hobbyists, students and researchers. Circuit stickers are a new way to build electronic prototypes by adhering physical…

PreHeat: Controlling Home Heating With Occupancy Prediction

Established: March 2, 2011

Home heating uses more energy than any other residential energy expenditure, making increasing the efficiency of home heating an important goal for saving money and protecting the environment. We have built a home-heating system, PreHeat, that automatically programs your thermostat based on when you are home. PreHeat’s goal is to reduce the amount of time a household’s thermostat needs to be on without compromising the comfort of household members. PreHeat System PreHeat builds a predictive…

.NET Gadgeteer

Established: September 20, 2010

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. 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…

Peppermill

Established: January 19, 2010

The Peppermill project is an exploration into the design space of user interface devices that are able to source their power from the physical effort involved in interacting with them. We refer to this kind of device as being interaction-powered. In the prototype Peppermill device, we use a geared DC motor and a simple electronic circuit to enable interaction-powered rotary input. When turned, the circuit provides a temporary power source for an embedded device, and…

Publications

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

Mouse 2.0: Multi-touch meets the mouse
Nicolas Villar, Shahram Izadi, Dan Rosenfeld, Hrvoje Benko, John Helmes, Jonathan Westhues, Steve Hodges, Eyal Ofek, Alex Butler, Xiang Cao, Billy Chen, in Proceedings of UIST 2009, ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology. p. 33-42. UIST 2009 Best Paper Award., Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., October 1, 2009, View abstract, Download PDF

2008

Projects

Link description

Gadgeteer

Date

June 30, 2011

Speakers

Nicolas Villar

Affiliation

MSRC

Other

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.

VoodooIO

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.

VoodooIO

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.