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Nicolas Villar

Nicolas Villar

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]  

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Research Interests

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.

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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.

VoodooIOMy 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.

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