The chronotape is a tangible timeline for family history research, designed by Peter Bennett and developed as part of the PATINA project, within the Bristol Interaction & Graphics group.


June 2012. The ChronoTape was presented at the "Slow Technology" workshop at DIS 2012, along with a position paper: Slow Technology is Inefficient but Resilient.

February 2012. The ChronoTape is being presented as a talk & demo at TEI'12, the sixth international conference on tangible, embedded and embodied interaction. You can download the conference paper here: ChronoTape: Tangible Timelines For Family History

demo videos

This video shows the chronotape being joined together into a 200 year tape and then loaded onto the chronotape reader:

The next video shows the basic functions, including adding a person icon, writing on the tape and adding photos:


The chronotape is a new tool for researching family history, allowing you to build up a collection of notes that are arranged along the timeline.

There a number of different functions:
ADD PERSON: place a person icon on the tape to mark an event (birth, death, marriage etc).
WRITE NOTE: write directly onto the chronotape using pen/pencil.
TYPE NOTE: type a note onto the tape.
PHOTO: snap a photo note of the your research materials or old photos.

The chronotape was designed as an example of a Tangible User Interface, allowing you to interact with computer data using real physical objects. The chronotape explores the concept of using a tangible interface to control time, effectively turning the abstract concept of time into something you can hold and control. This research is a continuation of Peter Bennett's PhD thesis on "The Representation and Control of Time in Tangible User Interfaces". The chronotape aims to address the many of the questions that arose from the design of the BeatBearing tangible sequencer, which was developed as part of Peter's PhD research.

the current chronotape

spools of chronotape:

the chronotape reader:


The chronotape has been influenced by a number of different things including (but not limited to): reel-to-reel tape machines, microfilm and microfilm readers, cine-film projectors, arcade games, ancient scrolls, typewriters, photographic slides, sewing machines, tape-loop sound-effects...

construction of the new chronotape reader

earlier design and development

The following photos are not in any particular order and show the development of the chronotape system over a number of different sketches and prototypes.

The first model (originally named the 'timetape') was made from foamboard and used top-down projection:

Debugging and checking the tracking:

Double-decker version made from two prototypes (to accomodate the projector):

In a trial study with an old diary:

Playing around with the idea of non-linear splicing and back to front timelines:

Finding out that an arcade button is really tempting to push (with the danger of adding too many people):

Original aim was to use only single button:

Possibility of projecting out of the back of the chronotape reader to share the display in a larger format:

Using slide holders for important years:

What the camera inside the box sees, showing how the tape is tracked using the reacTIVision fiducial markers:

First use of the red line to mark the current position in the timeline:


Leave comments or get in touch about the #chronotape:




Dr. Peter Bennett: pete(at)peteinfo(dot)com