Sean Follmer is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science (by courtesy) at Stanford University. His Research in Human Computer Interaction, Haptics, and Human Robot Interaction explores the design of novel tactile physical interfaces and novel robotic devices. Dr. Follmer directs the Stanford Shape Lab and is a faculty member of the Stanford HCI Group. He is a core faculty member of the Design Impact masters program focusing on innovation and human centered design at Stanford.

The Shape lab explores how we can interact with digital information in a more physical and tangible way. Towards our goal of more human centered computing, we believe that interaction must be grounded in the physical world and leverage our innate abilities for spatial cognition and dexterous manipulation with our hands. We develop advanced technologies in robotics, mechatronics, and sensing to create interactive, dynamic physical 3D displays and haptic interfaces that allow 3D information to be touched as well as seen. We are specifically interested in using these novel interfaces to support richer remote collaboration, computer aided design, education, and interfaces for people with visual impairments. In pursuit of these goals, we use a design process grounded in iterative prototyping and human centered design and look to create new understanding about human perception and interaction through controlled studies.

Our research in Human Computer Interaction and Human Robot Interaction currently directed in five areas:
Dynamic physical shape displays
Wearable Haptics for grasping in VR
Ubiquitous Robotic Interfaces
Mobile Haptics
Soft actuation and Sensing

Dr. Follmer received a PhD and a Masters from the MIT Media Lab in 2015 and 2011 (respectively) for his work in human-computer interaction, and a BS in Engineering with a focus on Product Design from Stanford University. His talk featured on was named one of the best science and tech TED talks of 2015 and has been viewed more than 1.4 million times. He has received numerous awards for his research and design work such as Best Paper Awards and nominations from premier conferences in human-computer interaction (ACM UIST and CHI conferences), Fast Company Innovation By Design Award, Red Dot Design Award, and a Laval Virtual Award. His work has been shown at the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, Ars Electronica Center, and the Milan Design Week. Dr. Follmer also leads workshops and executive education around design thinking and innovation.

Academic Appointments

Honors & Awards

  • Best Paper Award, ACM UIST 2012 (2012)
  • Best Paper Award, ACM UIST 2013 (2013)
  • Best Demo Award, ACM UIST 2016 (2016)
  • Best Paper Award (x2), ACM UIST 2016 (2016)
  • Best Paper Award, ACM UIST 2017 (2017)

Program Affiliations

  • Symbolic Systems Program

Professional Education

  • Postdoctoral Associate, MIT Media Lab (2015)
  • PhD, MIT Media Lab (2015)
  • S.M., MIT Media Lab (2011)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Human Computer Interaction, Haptics, Robotics, Human Centered Design

Stanford Advisees

  • Doctoral Dissertation Reader (AC)
    Eric Chang, Darrel Deo, Nasreddine El-Dehaibi, Alex Gruebele, Amy Kyungwon Han, Melisa Orta Martinez, Will Roderick, Mike Salvato, Srinath Sibi, Nathan Usevitch, Julie Walker
  • Orals Chair
    David Miller
  • Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
    Dan Drew
  • Doctoral Dissertation Advisor (AC)
    Elyse Chase, Eric Gonzalez, Zack Hammond, Lawrence Kim, Alexa Siu, Kai Zhang
  • Orals Evaluator
    Ting Liao, Laura Matloff
  • Doctoral Dissertation Co-Advisor (AC)
    Parastoo Abtahi, Adam Caccavale, Shenli Yuan
  • Master's Program Advisor
    Eleni Alexandraki, Elyse Chase, Julea Chin, Caroline Condon, Preston Culbertson, Sohini Guin, Vivienne Hay, Usman Khaliq, Magdalene Koo, Chloe Thai
  • Postdoctoral Research Mentor
    Dan Drew
  • Doctoral (Program)
    Jingyi Li, Evan Strasnick, Kai Zhang

All Publications

  • Shape Displays: Spatial Interaction with Dynamic Physical Form IEEE COMPUTER GRAPHICS AND APPLICATIONS Leithinger, D., Follmer, S., Olwal, A., Ishii, H. 2015; 35 (5): 5-11

    View details for Web of Science ID 000361969200002

    View details for PubMedID 26416359

  • Jamming User Interfaces: Programmable Particle Stiffness and Sensing for Malleable and Shape-Changing Devices UIST'12: PROCEEDINGS OF THE 25TH ANNUAL ACM SYMPOSIUM ON USER INTERFACE SOFTWARE AND TECHNOLOGY Follmer, S., Leithinger, D., Olwal, A., Cheng, N., Ishii, H. 2012: 519-528
  • d.note: Revising User Interfaces Through Change Tracking, Annotations, and Alternatives 28th Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Hartmann, B., Follmer, S., Ricciardi, A., Cardenas, T., Klemmer, S. R. ASSOC COMPUTING MACHINERY. 2010: 493–502
  • Family Story Play: Reading with Young Children (and Elmo) Over a Distance CHI2010: PROCEEDINGS OF THE 28TH ANNUAL CHI CONFERENCE ON HUMAN FACTORS IN COMPUTING SYSTEMS, VOLS 1-4 Raffle, H., Ballagas, R., Revelle, G., Horii, H., Follmer, S., Go, J., Reardon, E., Mori, K., Kaye, J. '., Spasojevic, M. 2010: 1583-1592