Making Data ‘Tangible’:
It’s called inFORM and it comes from MIT’s Tangible Media Group…and it’s got to be one of the coolest and most amazing interactive display technologies I’ve seen in, well, almost forever…
According to the group’s website,
‘The Tangible Media Group, led by Professor Hiroshi Ishii, explores the Tangible Bits vision to seamlessly couple the dual world of bits and atoms by giving physical form to digital information.’
The inFORM display was created by interactive tech genii Daniel Leithinger, Sean Follmer, and professor Hiroshi Ishii and consists of a few “basic” components: a high-processing power computer, a system of actuators and linkages (it’s always about the linkages), an LCD projector, a Kinect device (of XBox fame), and finally, a grid of alterable height pins….all integrated into one amazing, Augmented Reality display!
And, if seeing is believing, it meshes seamlessly with one’s iPad or Tablet display (allowing smooth transfer from one to the other)…and even connects to/interacts with your smart phone…
Technically, it’s called a tangible user interface (TUI), which, according to the group’s website,
“…is like an iceberg: there is a portion of the digital that emerges beyond the surface of the water—into the physical realm—so that we may interact directly with it.” (note: the top image is meant to illustrate this concept)
An Interactive Learning Technology
At first, one might wonder as to is practical uses (and noting the irony of its virtual touching platform, by a research group with the word ‘tangible’ in its name)…But after just a few seconds of viewing, one begins to imagine more and more applications: from 3D modeling of mathematical equations and physics principles to digital data (graphs, charts, etc.) visualization and manipulation of topographic (landscape) features…and, of course, for pure experimental fun!
With all its potential educational applications — and although its current size might limit the number of units in a given classroom — we can expect to see some form of inFORM making in-roads into classroom curricula in the coming years…maybe sooner.
My suggestion: put several of these inFORM displays in front of a bunch of fourth graders, step back, and observe…Alternatively, we could “go primal” (or primate, as with the introduction of the iPad) and install several inFORM units in the chimp or orangutan exhibits at city zoos — an experiment in non-human primate brain-machine interfacing…I welcome your comments and suggestions for future applications.
And now, sit back and be mesmerized by this amazing and compelling interactive display technology (Article continues, below):
Use the following link to learn more about MIT’s Tangible Media Group and its many tech projects.
The original source material for this post came from the bloggineducation.wordpress.com post: ‘Imagine, new interactive learning desks‘
Top Image: Tangible User Interface (TUI) illustration from the Tangible Media Group website ; caption: A tangible user interface is like an iceberg: there is a portion of the digital that emerges beyond the surface of the water—into the physical realm—so that we may interact directly with it.