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Is it just me, or does it feel like the “future” we all see in TV shows and movies is getting closer and closer to reality? A team of researchers at MIT have created a small atmosphere, the ZeroN, where you can interact with objects floating in your own space. This could be the potential birth of a live user interface where we can touch, instruct, and play with objects and images in the air.
Lee, who researches with MIT’s Tangible Media Group, created the ZeroN, a small, unenclosed space that uses electromagnets to suspend a ball in mid-air. The ball (and the space holding it) can remember a human’s touch and mimic the movement in space. The ball can also move along per-programmed paths that are fed to the magnet and the machine holding the magnet using software.
“Even if the user moves the ZeroN to a different position, the system can re-stabilize and keep the ZeroN suspended,” said researcher Jihna Lee said in a video about the ZeroN
It can also act as a camera, recording 3D objects in its space, as well as work with a light source, showing how shadows would exist in real life on small models.
The magnet moves the ball, pulling and repelling it dependent on where it is commanded to go. The whole system exists on an arm that moves the magnet up and down and side to side, increasing the distance it can travel. The researchers used a “hall sensor,” which is constantly checking the ball’s position to record its movements.
“Our body and minds have developed great capacities for understand and manipulating physical environments,” said Lee. “The long-term vision is to embed computation and physical materials that can directly interact with us. In this way, we seek to redefine the relationships humans have with materials, space and digital information.”
The design industry could benefit from the technology, being able to build and interact with 3D models that can move and be manipulated without having to program it first into a computer. And as FastCo.Design points out, it could lead to even cooler inventions such as floating holograms that we can wrap around our arms and move in mid-air like Ironman.
Check out a video of the technology below. It’ll basically blow your mind.