Minecraft Made Real?

Materiable is a Shape Shifting 3D Printed Interface


The boffins at MIT have created a shape changing interface called Materiable, which can mimic physical reactions with 3D printed blocks.

Materiable is an innovative platform that reacts to both touch and light, and can mimic materials such as sand, rubber, water, or clay, as well as physical reactions like flexibility and even bounciness. Each “pixel” in the array is a 3D printed pillar that responds to human interaction with haptic feedback.

The Tangible Media Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are behind the development of Materiable, which they say is a follow up to a dynamic shape display called inFORM from 2013.

The inFORM platform worked by connecting a display to a Microsoft Kinect, allowing people to have their movements mimicked through 3D pixels in other places, which made for an unique form of interaction and even communication.

Today, Materiable also uses the same technology, but there have also been a number of different predominantly shape-shifting features added too. Check it out in the video below:

What are the Practical Uses for Materiable?

In order for Materiable to work, each 3D printed block is connected to a sensor which measures displacement and sends physical information to a computer.

From this, they can render dynamic physical properties by sending simulation instructions back to the pixel through its actuator, and a reaction or movement occurs.

The uses for this platform could include education, as a tool for medical students to practice methods such as pressure points and CPR, and also for geoscientific models.

These mock-up concepts can then be saved as a digital file and can easily be 3D printed for later reference.

“Shape changing interfaces give physical shapes to digital data so that users can feel and manipulate data with their hands and bodies,” runs the blurb on the project page at Tangible. “Our research shows that shape changing interfaces can go beyond simply displaying shape allowing for rich embodied interaction and perceptions of rendered materials with the hands and body.”

Lucky attendees at the CHI 2016 Conference for human-computer interaction got to see Materiable in action this past weekend.

Don’t get your hopes too high about seeing one in stores anytime soon, however. Because shape shifting user interfaces are still in their early stages, the Materiable project is currently confined to research purposes.

(Source: Tangible Media)