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LineFORM: adaptable robotic line form that changes shape

Posted in Technology

MIT’s Media Lab has created LineFORM, a “Shape Changing Interface” that presents new ways for us to interact with technology. LineFORM is a serpentine robot that has the ability to form a number of shapes, mixing flexibility with rigidity. The lab’s Tangible Media Group believes it opens up “new possibilities for display, interaction, and body constraint,” and has demonstrated its potential for all three on video.

LineFORM starts with a line; a linear series of actuators that can move independently or together to arrange itself in new shapes. In one demo, it’s wrapped around a wrist and it’s able to convey a notification through haptic feedback, uncoiling its end and gently tapping a user’s wrist. Its creators ask us to imagine this forming the core structure of a mobile device, presumably replete with a display, microphone and speaker. On receiving the notification, the user then unfurls it, and it contracts into a rectangular prism. After he taps away on an imaginary display, it shape-shifts into an old-timey telephone.

With all of the demonstrations, you have to use a healthy dose of imagination. This is an advanced proof-of-concept that could one day develop into something useful. “We envisage LineFORM-style devices coupled with flexible displays as next-generation mobile devices,” say Ken Nakagaki, Sean Follmer, and Tangible Media Group head Professor Hiroshi Ishii, the three authors of the LineFORM research paper.

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