"Metaffordances" are things or devices that allow creative interaction (from: "meta" =
self-referential, and "affordances" = things that allow or afford actions).
An AFFORDANCE is a scientific term for the perceivable properties of something in the environment such that the thing is seen
in terms of what actions are offered - definition by the renowned American experimental psychologist James Gibson.
We can see that a chair
affords stepping up on...or sitting on...or picking up; it depends. If one wants to sit, we see that the chair offers
an affordance of "sit-on-ability". Perception is possible because there is information - structured, reflected light
all around us. It is composed of mathematical structures - "higher-order invariants", ratios, constants...patterns.
We can perceive things (affordances) because this information is detected by our senses-brain-body system depending on what
we want or intend to do (sit or step up or lift it, etc). In general, we do not "think" about what meaningful actions the
world affords us...we simply and directly SEE the meaningful properties...we perceive what actions are possible. Most behaviour
is based on perception, not thoughts. Perceptual information is all about ACTION. Because such "ecological information"
exists and is about action, it is a new category of information (discovered by James Gibson, acknowledged as the 20th
century's greatest perceptual psychologist). All organisms perceive their
environments in terms of what actions are possible; they detect information
to do this. Animals perceive meaningful affordances, not just meaningless things. This
is because of the
"fit" between the organism and the environment - the ecological fit. Perception is an ecological phenomenon.
A metaffordance is a special kind of affordance - it is not just a tool...it
is an information tool - a "second-order" affordance, a self-referential affordance,
and it generates information. It affords not just actions like pressing a button (e.g., to turn on a laptop
screen) but new information - about actions and interactions ("informactions"??). When you press a button on
the computer game or website "inside" the computer screen, your action in that "virtual" world has real consequences for you -
in both the virtual and the real world - the new information allows you to do new things..
Metaffordances provide opportunities beyond basic actions because metaffordances generate
information about possible interactions.
Affordances invite us to act; metaffordances invite us to interact...they act
back - they respond.
The responsiveness of metaffordances, due to information generation, allows them to enhance and amplify human
abilities beyond being mere "tools".
1. Pencil: It affords grasping (a basic action affordance) but it allows much more. It
is a metaffordance for communication - it amplifies communication via the action of writing in a language. This
allows interaction with those who can read because it can generate information.
2. Mobile phone: It affords picking up and holding
(basic action affordances). But it is a metaffordance for verbal interaction and discussion between
two interacting people. It generates (and transmits) information.
3. Video conference computer screen: It is a metaffordance for group interaction
4. Augmented reality device (e.g., a smartphone with camera and superimposed
graphics and text): It is graspable (the basic affordance) but it is a metaffordance for amplified interaction
with the thing it is directed at (e.g., a restaurant app that superimposes menus or customer reviews when the screen is pointed
at a particular pizza shop). Or Pokémon Go game - it allows virtual actions with real consequences - you go outside and
walk around and look at stuff (to "capture" virtual animals). The walking is a real activity and a real consequence of the
augmented reality game.
5. Surgical assistive robotics for bone
cutting surface preparation during knee joint replacement: While being primarily moved by the surgeon's hand, the cutting
tool may also be implicitly controlled by a camera-based position detection algorithm so that the assistive robot
knows exactly where the tool is in relation to the limb and with sub-millimetre precision can restrict movement of
the scalpel by creating virtual haptic barriers that provide force feedback resistance to the hand to avoid scalpel over-shoot.
The scalpel is thus precisely constrained and confined to an area it is allowed to cut and grind. This allows the surgeon
to apply the tool more precisely (and without worry of slippage error). This has created an immense advancement in joint replacement
accuracy and post-operative outcome success. The assistive robot (robot arm + end-tool + 3D imaging screen + feedback system)
is a metaffordance for surgeon's performing 21st century arthroplasty - it does not replace the surgeon but
rather enhances and amplifies the information and thus the surgeon's ability and skill for replacing arthritic
joints (e.g., the Mako robot).
What We Can Do For You
We provide tools and
techniques to help you understand the opportunities for action in a changing world of increasing complexity and mental
With a background in cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and ecological psychology, we understand the
key role of attention in human performance, and especially in safety. Having conducted the
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With extensive international experience in scientific research, we can provide expertise in data analysis,
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Together with associated experts and colleagues in the field, we offer techniques that provide
solutions to complex, real world problems. Simple principles can generate complex patterns (even chaotic signals) and understanding
the underlying dynamical principles is the key to progress. We have numerous scientific papers from our projects as proof-of-concept.
Let us help you not only see the simplicity in the complex, but act on it too.