inForm – A Shapeshifting Device That Lets You Touch Stuff Through a Display

inform-a-shapeshifting-display-that-lets-you-reach-out-and-touch-something We’ve move past the era of mouse and keyboard, the devices we see today work on touch, voice commands, and gestures. But is that it? Would we be using glossy glass surfaces in the future in order to interact with a digital device? This experiment done at MIT shows us that the future of computing is not pixels but atoms. Atoms that we can interact with in much more realistic manner than we do on a glass surface. The image you’re seeing is not taken from a science fiction movie. It is from an experiment done in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The dream of having to touch stuff while sitting behind a screen is possible now, all thanks to the inFORM. InFROM is a  surface that has three-dimensions and changes shape, allowing users to not only interact with digital content, but even hold hands with a person hundreds of miles away. Created by Daniel Leithinger and Sean Follmer and overseen by Professor Hiroshi Ishii, the technology behind inFORM is pretty much like Pinscreens. mit-shapeshifting-device-inform-in-actionThere are hundreds of thousands of pins mounted on a surface controlled by a motor sitting underneath the surface. The motor is controlled by a computer. It can not only render digital objects, but can also register real-world objects interacting on its surface, all thanks to the sensors of a hacked Microsoft Kinect. InFORM could be used for medical purposes and 3-D modelling. But the group that created this device wants to use it to shape the user interfaces and device displays of the future, a radical concept known as Tactile User Interface (TUI). Leithinger, one of the founders of  inFORM, expresses his views

Right now, the things designers can create with graphics are more powerful and flexible than in hardware. The result is our gadgets have been consumed by the screen and become indistinguishable black rectangles with barely any physical controls.

Follmer, another one of the founders of inFORM signifies its importance

As humans, we have evolved to interact physically with our environments, but in the 21st century, we’re missing out on all of this tactile sensation that is meant to guide us, limit us, and make us feel more connected. In the transition to purely digital interfaces, something profound has been lost.

How do you perceive inFORM? What, according to you, could be cool real-world applications of such a device?

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