Brad Tober /
Experimental Interface Lab


Colorigins is a tactile color mixing and matching game designed and developed for the Sifteo Cubes tangible computing platform. By physically manipulating a set of Sifteo Cubes, players attempt to match a target color by mixing a provided set of source colors. Throughout the process of color mixing, players can gain experience with key color theory concepts such as value, saturation, tints, shades, tones, complements, chromatic neutrals, and the relative visual strengths of particular colors. A custom algorithm that references the spectral reflectance values of Colorigins’ source colors enables the game’s digital simulation of subtractive color mixture.


Hardware and interface

Colorigins is specifically designed and developed for the Sifteo Cubes tangible computing platform. The Sifteo base stores and runs software built for the platform, connecting wirelessly to up to twelve 1.7-inch square cubes. The cubes each feature a touch sensitive LCD, an accelerometer, and proximity sensors so that the cubes know when and where they are in contact with one another. Colorigins leverages the unique hardware features of the Sifteo Cubes to create a minimal, intuitive, and novel user interface, fusing the distinctively physical experience of mixing color with the affordances of digital media. Colorigins, like many other applications involving tangible interfaces, incorporates a form of human-computer interaction that contemporary design practice has yet to fully address. In part, Colorigins examines the implications that this evolving human-computer relationship has for designing interactive experiences. Click here to download a PDF that documents all of the ways in which a user can interact with the Colorigins interface.

Colorigins demonstration

Simulating subtractive color mixture

The physical variables of subtractive color (such as ink / pigment characteristics, surface quality, and ambient / environmental light) mean that the primary component values of any colors to be mixed are insufficient for determining the behavior of the mixture. The color mixing model used by Colorigins holds some of these variables constant to simulate a particular type of color mixing experience.

Instead of using primary component values to calculate a color mixture, Colorigins uses spectral reflectance values. As visible light consists of a spectrum of wavelengths, any subtractive color can be represented by a series of data values that indicate the amount of light reflected at any particular wavelength. The source colors for Colorigins are based on a palette of Munsell Color System colors for which a data set of spectral reflectance values has been determined experimentally. The palette selection was made to maximize color saturation (as saturation invariably decreases upon mixture) while maintaining equal color value, as well as to ensure a perceptually familiar hue gradation.

For technical details on the color mixing algorithm implemented by Colorigins, please visit the website of my collaborator, Scott Burns.


  • Honorable Mention (Category: Interactive Media), 2014 International Design Awards, Los Angeles, California.



  • "School of Art and Design Faculty Exhibition." Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois (August 29–September 27, 2014).
  • "iDEAS_14." 12th Annual International Digital Media and Arts Association (iDMAa) Conference, Utah Valley University, Orem, Utah (November 5–7, 2014).
  • "SLINGSHOT 2015 Festival of Music, Art, and Tech." Athens, Georgia (March 26–28, 2015).
  • "Blank Arcade 2015." Diversity of Play: The 2015 Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) Conference, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany (May 14–17, 2015).
  • "xCoAx 2015: Computation, Communication, Aesthetics, and X." Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Scotland (June 25–26, 2015).
  • "Stimulus / Response / Affect." Oakland University Art Gallery, Rochester, Michigan (October 17–November 22, 2015).
  • "Oso Bay Biennial XIX." Weil Gallery, Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, Texas (March 29–April 30, 2016).
  • "FILE: Electronic Language International Festival." SESI–SP (Brazilian Industrial Social Services–São Paulo) Gallery of Digital Art, São Paulo, Brazil (July 11–August 21, 2016).


  • Panel: "The Science and Politics of Design." 12th Annual International Digital Media and Arts Association (iDMAa) Conference, Utah Valley University, Orem, Utah (November 7, 2014).
  • "Colorigins: Algorithmically Transforming Subtractive Color Theory Pedagogy." xCoAx 2015: Computation, Communication, Aesthetics, and X, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Scotland (June 26, 2015).
  • "Colorigins: Disrupting Color Theory Pedagogy with a Tactile Color Mixing and Matching Game." 21st International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) Conference, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada (August 16, 2015).
  • Panel: "Play, Response, and Learning." Stimulus / Response / Affect Symposium, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan (October 17, 2015).
  • "Colorigins: A Tangible Color Mixing and Matching Game." College of Design, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina (March 27, 2017).


  • Beck, Dave, ed. iDEAS_14 Exhibition Catalog. Orem, Utah: International Digital Media and Arts Association, 2014.
  • Rozier, Rayleigh. "Kids learn the finer points of circuits during Slingshot festival." Athens Banner-Herald. March 29, 2015.
  • Grace, Lindsay and Paolo Ruffino, eds. Blank Arcade 2015: Games Out of Joint Exhibition Catalog. Lüneburg, Germany: Digital Games Research Association, 2015.
  • Rabe, Andreas. "Spieleforscher treffen sich zur Konferenz in Lüneburg." May 15, 2015.
  • "Kinderreporter: Laura auf der Spieleforscher-Konferenz." logo! Die Welt und ich. ZDFtivi. Mainz, Germany. May 16, 2015.
  • Ludwig, Colleen and Vagner Whitehead, eds. Stimulus / Response / Affect Exhibition Catalog. Rochester, Michigan: Oakland University, 2015.
  • Barreto, Ricardo and Paula Perissinotto, eds. FILE (Electronic Language International Festival) São Paulo 2016 Exhibition Catalog. São Paulo, Brazil: FILE, 2016.