The latest invention, built by students from the Tangible Media Group in the MIT Media Lab, is a computer-operated device that manipulates actuators and linkages to move a set of pins, allowing it to change shape 3-dimensionally, as if it were moving on its own. The system is a “Dynamic Shape Display” that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way.
Created by Daniel Leithinger and Sean Follmer with the guidance of engineers, software developers, and Professor Hiroshi Ishii, inFORM users can highlight portions of the pin-board and raise them up without actually touching them.
In simpler terms, inFORM can easily connect with the physical world around it, moving objects on a table’s surface with the swipe of a hand, and even mimic the hand’s shape. The concept uses an overhead depth camera to track a users movements, or other 3D objects placed underneath it, which then triggers the pins on the board to move independently in real-time.
Researchers said the system has the capability of allowing someone on the other end of a video conference call to have a “strong sense of presence and the ability to interact physically at a distance,” almost as if they were physically there.
“InFORM would allow 3D modellers and designers to prototype their 3D designs physically without 3D printing,” the inventors explain. “The traditional sort of interaction design and device design sort of assumes for a very static way of interacting and this [inFORM] device can change its physical form very quickly and that means that we need to come up with new ways that we interact with technology,” Follmer said.
inFORM contains 900 small motors which control each pin on it. Every pin works to render objects in 3D, and each motor costs anywhere from £15-20.
Sources – Boston Magazine / Memolition