Nicolas Villar is a researcher at Microsoft Research, based in Cambridge, UK. He leads the Connected Play initiative as part of the Human Experience and Design group.
E-mail: nvillar [at] microsoft.com
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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 devices, sensors and actuators - as building blocks in the design of physical interactive objects and devices.
The focus of my work is leading an exploration into the notion of connected play, where we prototype and develop novel technologies that enable new forms of play, social and entertainment experiences.
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.
More information about VoodooIO, including videos and a list of relevant publications, can be found on the project website here.
Details of some of the other projects that I worked on and collaborations carried out during my time at the Lancaster University Computing Department can be found on my personal website there.
- John Downs, Nicolas Villar, James Scott, Siân Lindley, John Helmes, and Gavin Smyth, A Small Space for Playful Messaging in the Workplace: Designing and Deploying Picco, in Proceedings of the 2014 ACM conference on Designing Interactive Systems, ACM, 21 June 2014.
- Steve Hodges, Nicolas Villar, Nicholas Chen, Tushar Chugh, Jie Qi, Diana Nowacka, and Yoshihiro Kawahara, Circuit Stickers: Peel-and-Stick Construction of Interactive Electronic Prototypes, ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2014, April 2014.
- Katie Derthick, James Scott, Nicolas Villar, and Christian Winkler, Exploring Smartphone-based Web User Interfaces for Appliances, in Proceedings of MobileHCI 2013, ACM, August 2013.
- Norman Pohl, Steve Hodges, John Helmes, Nic Villar, and Tim Paek, An Interactive Belt-worn Badge with a Retractable String-based Input Mechanism, in In Proceedings of CHI 2013, ACM Sig CHI 2013, 30 April 2013.
- Steve Hodges, James Scott, Sue Sentance, Colin Miller, Nicolas Villar, Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche, Kerry Hammil, and Steven Johnston, .NET Gadgeteer: A New Platform for K-12 Computer Science Education, in SIGCSE '13 Proceedings of the 44th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, ACM, March 2013.
- Steve Hodges, Stuart Taylor, Nicolas Villar, James Scott, Dominik Bial, and Patrick Tobias Fischer, Prototyping Connected Devices for the Internet of Things, in IEEE Computer, IEEE Computer Society, February 2013.
- Steve Hodges, Stuart Taylor, Nicolas Villar, James Scott, and John Helmes, Exploring Physical Prototyping Techniques for Functional Devices using .NET Gadgeteer, in Proceedings of TEI 2013, ACM, February 2013.
- Nicolas Villar, James Scott, Steve Hodges, Kerry Hammil, and Colin Miller, .NET Gadgeteer: A Platform for Custom Devices, in Proceedings of Pervasive 2012, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, June 2012.
- Stacey Kuznetsov, Alex S. Taylor, Tim Regan, Nicolas Villar, and Eric Paulos, At the seams: DIYbio and opportunities for HCI, in Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference, ACM, New York, NY, USA, April 2012.
- Steve Whittaker, Vaiva Kalnakaite, Daniella Petrelli, Abigail Sellen, Nicolas Villar, Ofer Bergman, P Clough, and J Brockmeier, Socio-technical lifelogging: Deriving design principles for a future proof digital past, in Human-Computer Interaction (Special Issue on Personal Memories), ACM, 2012.
- John Sarik, Alex Butler, Nicolas Villar, James Scott, and Steve Hodges, Combining 3D printing and printable electronics, in Proceedings of TEI 2012 Works in Progress, ACM, 2012.
- Steve Hodges, Nicolas Villar, James Scott, and Albrecht Schmidt, A New Era for Ubicomp Development, in IEEE Pervasive Computing, vol. 11, no. 1, IEEE Computer Society, January 2012.
- John Helmes, Kenton O'Hara, Nicolas Vilar, and Alex Taylor, Meerkat and tuba: design alternatives for randomness, surprise and serendipity in reminiscing, in INTERACT'11: Proceedings of the 13th IFIP TC 13 international conference on Human-computer interaction, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, September 2011.
- James Scott, A.J. Bernheim Brush, John Krumm, Brian Meyers, Mike Hazas, Steve Hodges, and Nicolas Villar, PreHeat: Controlling Home Heating Using Occupancy Prediction, in Proceedings of UbiComp 2011, ACM, September 2011.
- Scott Davidoff, Nicolas Villar, Alex S. Taylor, and Shahram Izadi, Mechanical hijacking: how robots can accelerate UbiComp deployments, in UbiComp '11: Proceedings of the 13th international conference on Ubiquitous computing, ACM, New York, NY, USA, September 2011.
- A. Badshah, S. Gupta, G. Cohn, N. Villar, S. Hodges, and S.N. Patel, Interactive generator: a self-powered haptic feedback device, in Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems, ACM Conference on Computer-Human Interaction, 2011.
- John Helmes, Kenton O'Hara, Nicolas Villar, and Alex Taylor, Meerkat and Tuba: design alternatives for randomness, surprise and serendipity in reminiscing, Interact, 2011.
- John Helmes, Alex S. Taylor, Xiang Cao, Kristina Höök, Peter Schmitt, and Nicolas Villar, Rudiments 1, 2 & 3: design speculations on autonomy, in Proceedings of the fifth international conference on Tangible, embedded, and embodied interaction, TEI '11, Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., New York, NY, USA, January 2011.
- John Helmes, Alexander Taylor, alex taylor, Kristina Höök, Peter Schmitt, Nicolas Villar, and Xiang Cao, Rudiments 1, 2 & 3: Design Speculations on Autonomy, Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., January 2011.
- N. Villar, J. Scott, and S. Hodges, Prototyping with Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer, in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction, 2011.
- Steve Hodges and Nicolas Villar, The Hardware Is Not a Given, in IEEE Computer, IEEE, August 2010.
- Florian Block, Hans Gellersen, and Nicolas Villar, Touch-display keyboards: transforming keyboards into interactive surfaces, in Proceedings of the 28th international conference on Human factors in computing systems , Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., April 2010.
- Daniela Petrelli, Nicolas Villar, Vaiva Kalnikaite, Lina Dib, and Steve Whittaker, FM radio: family interplay with sonic mementos, in Proceedings of the 28th international conference on Human factors in computing systems, Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., April 2010.
- Nicolai Marquardt, Alex S. Taylor, Nicolas Villar, and Saul Greenberg, Visible and controllable RFID tags, in Proceedings of the 28th of the international conference extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems , Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., April 2010.
- Xiang Cao, Nicolas Villar, and Shahram Izadi, Comparing user performance with single-finger, whole-hand, and hybrid pointing devices, in Proceedings of the 28th international conference on Human factors in computing systems , Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., April 2010.