inFORM: The Next Giant Leap For Touchscreens
Touchscreen is the interface of choice for interaction with digital world for quite a while now. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, cameras, refrigerators, even RO water purifiers now come with touch screens. But there is always a divide in such devices; there is no physical feedback. The devices we use, respond to our stimuli and act on our instructions. We have access to our loved ones thousands of kilometers through video conferencing services like skype, but it still lacks the physical appeal of holding hands. Now MIT’s Tangible Media Group with their Project called inFORM intend to change that.
The inFORM was created by Daniel Leithinger and Sean Follmer and overseen by Professor Hiroshi Ishiiis. It is an attempt to look at the future of interactive interfaces. The surface looks like living clay columns which rise to form shapes and graphs as instructed. The project of course is in a rudimentary stage but the practical applications are unlimited.
The technology behind inFORM is inspired by the pin screens which are used for animation purposes. Each block in inFORM is connected to a motor and controlled by a laptop. Using the inputs you can not only move the pins to render digital content physically, but can also register real-life objects interacting with its surface , for which they have hacked the Microsoft Kinect.
The Tangible Media Group intention with this project is to assess the interfaces of the future. This can be incredibly advantageous for professionals like Designers, Architects, and Engineers who can instantly see their creations in a 3D model and access the flaws of their designs too. The best part is that they can edit and interact with their designs.
For us regular folks, it can be used for physical game of chess with your friend sitting in Australia while you sit in Norway. With Virtual Reality(VR) gaining steam with Oculus and Project Morpheus, inFORM can be used to define the missing element of touch. So while you are having a VR walkthrough in the park, the inFORM surface can stimulate its surface in accordance to where you are in your VR world, you can feel different surfaces like grass, rocks maybe even rivers under your feet. Now that would be a truly immersive experience.
Even in the field of education this technology can bring a paradigm shift. Now instead of just reading about the movement of tectonic plates in geography class, students can see them move in 3D models. Subjects like Science, Maths, and Geometry will get a lot more comprehensible for students who get to see their theorems and formulas in action.
This project doesn’t fail to impress even if it is in a nascent stage. Like touch screens gave way to gesture controls that is found in Kinect and Wii and they too are giving way to VR technology, inFORM might be the new claimant for the next innovative technology revolution. Maybe we are closer than we think in terms of interacting with real world atoms instead of digital pixels. We are back into the physical world; the circle seems to be complete.