Touch is one of our most primal senses, a way to tangibly interact and receive data about our surroundings. Widely available digital touchscreens have allowed us to use this input in many different ways, but it's still a bit limited when it comes to actual interaction with our environment.
To bring back a semblance of the tactile, researchers at the MIT Media Lab have created a 3D, shapeshifting surface called inFORM that allows users to execute common physical interactions with digital matter. Potential uses can range from the simple, yet powerful holding of a person's hand from thousands of miles away, or bringing a 3D model to life for enhanced creativity.
So how does it work? Quite simply, actually: using a hooked-up pinscreen, a hacked Microsoft Kinect and a hooked up laptop, the inFORM becomes a digitally and physically-able tool that can "sense" objects on top of its surface and spit out renderings through its software. Plus, not only will the inFORM bring our digital model to life, it gives you the ability to alter and adjust the model using your own two hands.
The inFORM brings back that instinctive urge to feel something we could previously only see in digital form, almost like a relearning experience in a world where simulated digital experiences through digital displays have become the norm.
That loss of touch-based sensation was one of the driving forces in the creation of inFORM, which is currently being regarded as a stepping stone for the future development of tactile interfaces. It's a medium that MIT believes will become the next level of technological interaction, after we've become tired of simply flicking, swiping and tapping on a digital surface. And we all know when MIT talks; the world listens.