Science fiction books, novels and television have, for years, invented technology for the purposes of plot. But fact is almost always stranger than fiction. Many of the devices you might recognize from your favorite sci-fi stories are already a reality. Take a look.
Although technically not nano-sized, these micro air vehicles get around unseen.
While teleconferencing and telepresence robots kinda let people be in two places at once, here’s a display that makes matters a bit more palpable.
Developed by MIT’s Tangible Media Group, the inFORM is a dynamic shape-shifting interface that converts 3-D data into real-time physical representations. Think of it as videoconferencing combined with one of those Pinscreen toys you likely played around with at the Sharper Image.
On one end, the system includes a Kinect sensor that scans bodily movements. On the other end, those motions are recreated on a tabletop grid of computer-linked “pixels.” Actually, those pixels are 900 motorized polystyrene pins — controlled by actuators underneath the surface — that move up and down, with a range of four inches.
The video below shows how InForm can be used to cradle a ball or flashlight and interact with other physical objects. The video also illustrates how the interface could be used to display charts, 3-D models and various mathematical equations.
InFORM may be in its crude, early stages of development, but a few seconds into the demo video and it’s easy to see the limitless potential of applications, especially if the pixel “resolution” is increased. Education, architecture, city planning, games, 3-D prototyping, teleconferencing, surgical simulations, map making all stand to benefit from this device.
“Remote participants in a video conference can be displayed physically, allowing for a strong sense of presence and the ability to interact physically at a distance,” writes the Tangible Media Group. “inFORM is a step toward our vision of Radical Atoms,” a future goal of creating “human-material interaction, in which all digital information has a physical manifestation so that we can interact directly with it.”
Credit: MIT Tangible Media Group