MIT Demos Amazing Tactile, Shape-Shifting Display

A new prototype from the university could revolutionize the way we interact with computers.

Forget the phrase, “Reach out and touch someone.” Thanks to an impressive prototype called inFORM from MIT, we’ll soon be raving about how we can “reach out and touch software.”

The trailblazing university calls its new technology a “dynamic shape display.” In short, inFORM brings the virtual world into the physical world, blurring the lines between virtual and physical reality.

According to a report from The Verge, the invention truly shines once it’s paired with Microsoft Kinect:

When used in conjunction with a Kinect sensor, inFORM gets a lot more interesting. The sensor is able to accurately map and interpret the position of 3D objects, and MIT's system uses that data to allow you to move the table's pins with just your hands. This can even work remotely, as demonstrated by the video, which shows an MIT staffer interacting with items via a video conference.

MIT says it's exploring "a number of application domains" for inFORM. Key areas of interest include 3D visualizations of CT scans and other medical uses, device interaction, and the manipulation of physical objects. It's also very interested in mapping and terrain models, which could be used by urban planners and architects to better visualize and share 3D designs. The MIT Tangible Media Group, which is responsible for inFORM's creation, says it's currently collaborating with MIT's Changing Places group to explore the possibilities for urban planners.

If video conferencing didn’t feel real enough for you, something like this could certainly up the ante and boost the collaboration quality of remote work.

The real question is, if MIT is starting to go down this path of using virtual actions to impact physical ones, then we can’t be too far from the hologram technology we’ve been waiting for since Star Wars, right?

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

<p>Credit: Vimeo/Tangible Media Group</p>
Nov 20 2013