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How Your Coffee Table Could Pass Your Coffee 55

Posted by timothy
from the civets-could-pass-your-coffee-too dept.
mikejuk writes with this tantalizing excerpt about one possible future of furniture:"The mechanism of MIT's new shapeshifting output device is remarkably simple. It is based on the well known pin screen devices that you can use to take a 3D impression of an object. A 2D plate of pins can be moved to create a surface.In the same way, inForm uses a set of rods and actuators to create dynamic surfaces. The big difference is that the actuators are under computer control. Now you have a computer controlled surface and what is really surprising is how much you can get from this simple idea. With the help of a 3D depth camera and some innovative software, the surface can act as an output device that lets you manipulate real objects remotely. If you use the surface as a table then your computer can bring you real objects such as your mobile phone — see the video to believe it. While there are many obvious serious applications such as displaying volumetric CT scans, displaying complex data or providing early experience of prototypes there is also the possibility of having fun with the device. After all simple pinscreens are still sold as executive toys. Could there be a new generation of games in this?"
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How Your Coffee Table Could Pass Your Coffee

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  • by Zanadou (1043400) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @12:33PM (#45443157)
    Pass coffee?? I can do that all by myself, thank you.
  • Rene Auberjenois wants a word with you guys, something about prior art.

  • At Last! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The ability to punch somebody over the Internet.

  • Like all technology, we won't know that it's viable until they make porn with it.

  • That is cool. But at the same time it is also the most lame way I could imagine to move stuff around.
    All the examples they show could be done better with a robot hand or two, with a FAR smaller number of actuators.
    Software that detects the position of each finger already exists.

  • Watch the video (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2 AT anthonymclin DOT com> on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:29PM (#45443475) Homepage

    What's so impressive about this isn't in the summary. The cool part is that they developers have already considered (and built prototypes) of all kinds of interactive models that this could support. Remote control, tactile user interfaces, light and color manipulation, soooo much more than "bring me my phone".

    The video blows the summary out of the water.

  • I was going to use the subject, Sort My Legos, but the prototype resolution is too low. With more actuators, you could dump Lego bricks on the table and have it sort them for you. Or for the more practical minded, sort wrenches, nuts and bolts.
  • Not new (Score:3, Informative)

    by hammeraxe (1635169) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:43PM (#45443573)

    This isn't really anything new. Here's another example of similar technology by Festo used in materials handling/sorting: []

  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:54PM (#45443635) Journal

    Drop NoScript on the first few, then a dozen more come up. I won't use that kind of site. Here's a better link. []

  • What happens to this surface when you spill your coffee on it? Even if it is made to not be damaged by such an event, it sounds like this table would be a b*tchh to clean.
  • Been done. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @04:59PM (#45444709) Homepage

    This idea has come around many times. Howard Hughes, when he was recovering from an accident, had a bed custom-made for him with many foam pads on screw jacks. (This was the inspiration for the CGI version of such a bed in the Wolverine movie.) The Festo Wave surface is a nice implementation, especially because it's composed of a large number of identical units that latch together and make electrical and pneumatic connections.

    Back in the 1970s, there was a 3D plotter which had an X-Y positioner and a big spool of stiff wire, which it would push through a sheet of wallboard to the desired height and cut off. Because all the machinery was under the table, it looked impressive, as 3D graphs made of many thin wires appeared above the table.

    There's another way to move objects around on a surface. If you have a flat plate which can be vibrated in X, Y, and rotation [], you can move objects around on it. If you vibrate something with a sawtooth wave, during the slow part of the ramp, you move objects by static friction. But during the steep return part of the ramp, you accelerate the plate fast enough to get out of the static friction region, so the object slips slightly.

    But you can do more. By combining rotational and linear vibration, you can affect some objects more than others. For pure rotational vibration, objects near the center of rotation aren't affected. By appropriate combinations of rotational and translational vibration, multiple objects can be moved around independently. There was a demo of this as a robot chessboard about ten years ago. UPS was interested in it for box sorting, but it didn't work out with mixed real-world boxes.

  • I don't see any possible "new generation of games" based upon passing me my coffee cup.

    At least not as long as I'm still able to reach over and pick it up myself.

    • by PPH (736903)

      The bar at your local tavern can move your beer out of reach when it thinks you've had enough.

    • I don't see any possible "new generation of games" based upon passing me my coffee cup.

      At least not as long as I'm still able to reach over and pick it up myself.

      Oh come on! That video had Pong written all over it.

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