MIT Invention Allows Users to Reach Through a Computer Screen and Play with Stuff on the Other Side

MITinvention Separator

by Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)


The Tangible Media Group at MIT recently unveiled the inFORM, one of the coolest inventions to be seen in a while. According to their website, it’s a “Dynamic Shape Display that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way.” Basically, this means a user can virtually reach through a video screen and touch an object on the other side!

The inFORM looks like one of those pin toys that allow users to imprint shapes onto them, but way more high-tech. The inFORM’s surface is similarly made up of about a thousand pins assembled in a square grid. Corresponding actuators can move each pin up and down, which allows for a wide range of motions. A projector and Kinect are mounted above the surface and give color and depth to the pins. The Kinect’s sensor accurately maps and interprets the position of 3D objects and the inFORM uses that data to allow users to move the pins with their hands.

MIT is exploring different ways the inFORM can be utilized. One of the areas investigated is the medical field. The 3D visualizations of CT scans, along with other device interaction and the manipulation of physical objects could be key in advancing the field. It could also be helpful in architecture and urban planning, where its technology could be beneficial in visualizing 3D designs, mapping, and terrain models.

However, the inFORM is a long way from being widely available. As of right now, it is quite expensive to make. Each inFORM contains motors on every pin, each one costing between $20 and $30.

Watch the video below to learn more about this game-changing invention!

inFORM – Interacting With a Dynamic Shape Display from Tangible Media Group on Vimeo.


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