May 11, 2016 | By Tess

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT, has been responsible for some  impressive projects and advancements within the field of 3D printing, like this 3D printed hydraulic robot, and the Cillia tool for 3D printing objects as thin as hair. Their latest project, a shape changing interface made of 3D printed blocks called Materiable, does not disappoint as it can mimic such physical reactions as flexibility, elasticity, and viscosity.

Developed by MIT’s Tangible Media Group, Materiable is the follow up project to Inform, a shape-changing interface unveiled in 2013. The Inform platform, which consisted of a display connected to a Microsoft Kinect, allowed people to reach out physically, and have their movements mimicked through 3D pixels at a different location. The innovative technology meant that people from across the world could physically communicate through things like playing games, or building objects. Materiable, for its part, uses the Inform technology but has added a number of features, like the ability to simulate physics, and other shape-shifting properties.

As can be seen in the video below, the 3D printed Materiable platform is able to react in various ways to both touch and light, not only able to mimic such reactions as bounciness or flexibility, but also such materials as sand, water, and more. The platform can be used in a variety of ways, including as a tool for creating mock-up concepts (which can reportedly be saved as a digital file to be 3D printed later, as a medical tool on which students can practice such methods as CPR or pressure points, and even as a tool for geologists to simulate the effects of an earthquake.

The technology works by essentially having each 3D printed block or “pixel” connected to a sensor, which sends physical information to a computer, which in turn sends instructions for a physics simulation back to the pixel through its actuator, which results in the intended reaction and movement type. As the Tangible Media Group explains, “by integrating the multi-modal sensation techniques of haptics, our approach builds a perceptive model for the properties of deformable materials in response to direct manipulation without precise force feedback.”

Despite looking like an unbelievably fun thing to play with, the innovative Materiable project, will likely only be used for research purposes, as shape shifting user interfaces are still in their early stages. Materiable was unveiled this past weekend at the CHI 2016 Conference, one of the top conference’s for human-computer interaction.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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