Tangible Media Group Aiming to Interact with the Digital World

The Tangible Media Group at MIT is developing technology that makes it possible to reach into your computer screen, pull something out, and manipulate it. The group’s new device, inFORM, is described as a “Dynamic Shape Display” that can “render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way.” The team believes the tech will be useful for creating maps and architectural prototypes, and simplifying collaboration across distances.

MIT is one of many groups developing technology that will transform our relationships with digital information as we know it. Disney Research is working on 3D texture for touchscreens.

“These screens manipulate the haptic feedback current produced by our touch,” explains Business Insider. “Manipulating the currents makes it possible to simulate different textures.”

“Museums like the Smithsonian are even taking advantage of this kind of interactive technology by creating digital models of their exhibits that anyone in the world can access,” BI writes. “You can visit the museum even if you’re thousands of miles away.”

Other recent tangible media creations include screens that don’t require touch by Bristol Interactions and Graphics and Tangible Media Group’s Second Surface, which lets users draw spatial grids anywhere.

“All this technology is transforming our relationship with digital information from a passive one, in which we stare at the information on a screen, into an active one, in which we can physically interact with and manipulate the information,” BI says.

The inFORM creators include Daniel Leithinger, Sean Follmer and Hiroshi Ishii. While inFORM is currently set up on a local network, Follmer says that getting it to work at greater distances is merely a matter of additional research and testing.

For more information, visit the inFORM project page posted by MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group.