Material Reality

Investigating new approaches to discovering knowledge about materials through playful interfaces

Human life is defined by the materials we consume and use to build our environment. In higher education, students gain specific knowledge about materials relevant to their fields, but less about the wider ecosystem the substances are embedded in. Our goal is to broaden the perspective on materials to create awareness of their role in the global natural resource ecosystem.

The material collection assembled by the MATERIAL ARCHIV network contains physical samples and a digital database. It is an important source of information about traditional and innovative materials for creative occupational groups from architecture, engineering, design and art. Professionals in these fields have great influence on the selection and use of materials in their projects, but it remains a challenge to make them aware of the consequences of their decisions, particularly for the ecosystems surrounding their chosen material.Working together with experts in the network of the MATERIAL ARCHIV, our project aims to give a wider perspective and educate students and young professionals about the role of materials in the global resource ecosystem in a playful and motivating way.

Our team explores exciting new possibilities by developing analogue and digital prototypes. With a background in game design, we investigate how these complex topics could be presented in a motivating and playful way, with the goal to create impactful experiences.

exploring new ways to interact with the material databases (image credit: N. Suvorova & M. von Rickenbach)

The first focus of Material Reality is to have a closer look at one of the most consumed substances on earth: Sand. Through an interactive web-based experience, it’s possible to immerse oneself in the universe of sand, explore how the physics and the economy of sand are interconnected, see the human impact of using sand as a construction material and better understand how this affects its sustainability.

Project Duration

1. September 2020 – 31. May 2021

Project Owners

Mario von Rickenbach

Game Designer and Artist

Nadya Suvorova

Interactive Media Artist and Designer



ETH Materials Hub ETH Zurich

ETH Materials Hub

Network Support and Supervision

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