Tag Archives: MIT

Shapeshifting Technology Within Grasp

Shapeshifting isn’t just for sci-fi movies; new shapeshifting technology can change video chats of the future.

A research group out of MIT has created a way to allow inanimate objects to respond to human touch. Internet users may soon use this technology to interact with each other or play with objects virtually.

MIT research assistant Daniel Leithinger says shapeshifting can take your smart device to the next dimension. “Right now, if you think about it, we are just poking at glass surfaces, and then we have these rich graphics underneath. Wouldn’t it be more engaging if we could actually touch information, reach out to other people and have a much richer sensory experience?”

The technology uses motorized plastic pins to respond to your movement. A group of pins are attached to a structure, each with an individualized motor. A motion sensor camera measures your movements and tells the pins how to respond. Fellow researcher Philipp Schoessler explains the technology: “Each element is like a pixel on a screen and if you have a lot of pixels, you can get the illusion of forms of shapes.”

Tangible media, like shapeshifting, can allow you to interact with other users, even shake hands virtually. Leithinger says it can also be used to develop 3D models. “Originally we started out developing shape displays. And the idea of a shape display is, they are kind of like your average multi-touch display like your computer or phone. But rather than just sensing touch and outputting graphics it can also output shapes and you can deform those shapes.”

It can even be used to transform your furniture. Researchers hope to incorporate shapeshifting into furniture that can mold to your body, identify pressure points, or stimulate movement to keep you alert on the job. “I think of it more as helping you, not forcing you to change yourself. Going from a seated to a standing position, that’s definitely something it can do, help you form healthy habits,” says Leithinger.

The possibilities move beyond furniture and video chats. The technology can be used in other fields like landscaping and architecture.

The tech is still in its developmental stages but Leithinger says it may soon become a part of daily life. “We really feel we can go much more interesting…We can have the richness of real objects, of using our hands and our bodies, when interacting with computers. But we think that this shapeshifting technology will be necessary in order for us to do so.”

Hillary Vaughn is part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the program here and follow them on Twitter: @FNCJrReporters

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MIT, Harvard scientists accidentally create real-life lightsaber

MIT, Harvard scientists accidentally create real-life lightsaber

Published September 29, 2013

  • Star Wars Light Saber Fight

    Luke Skywalker engages in a perilous lightsaber duel with Darth Vader in ‘Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back.’ (LUCAS FILMS/ZUMA PRESS)

The force is clearly with them.

In a reported first, researchers at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a newfangled technology that theoretically could be used to construct an actual lightsaber.

Until now, photons, or the mass-less particles that constitute light, were thought to not interact, but rather simply pass through each other, just two beams of luminescence during a laser-light show.

“The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”

– Mikhail Lukin, Harvard physics professor 

But according to the Harvard Gazette, scientists at the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms have improbably coaxed photons into hardened molecules you could, in fact, whack against each other in, say, a Bespin-based duel-to-the-death resulting in one person, sadly, losing a hand.

As a lightsaber-wielding Darth Vader once notably noted, “Don’t make me destroy you . . .”

“It’s not an inapt analogy to compare this to lightsabers,” Harvard professor of physics Mikhail Lukin told the Gazette.

“When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflecting each other. The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”

Added MIT Professor of Physics Vladan Vuletic in an interview with WBZ-TV, “It has long been a dream to have photons of light beams interact with one another. . .We use laser beams and shine them in from six sides and these laser beams actually cool the atoms.

“Maybe a characteristic of a lightsaber is that you have these two light beams and they don’t go through each other as you might expect; they just kind of bounce off each other.”

However, don’t expect the new technology to soon result in a real-life, proverbial “elegant weapon for a more civilized age,” as exiled Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobe once put it.

Instead, the science behind the recent breakthrough will likely lead researchers to realizing the till-now coveted concept of quantum computing.

“What it will be useful for we don’t know yet,” Lukin reportedly said. “But it’s a new state of matter, so we are hopeful that new applications may emerge as we continue to investigate these photonic molecules’ properties.”

Now, if science would only allow the would-be smugglers out there to get their hands on a trusty blaster.

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