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Deforming metal sheet brought to life with an Arduino

Every few months we get to see a new generation or increment of the technology we use, be that a new smartphone, tablet, e-reader, watch, or pretty much anything else that needs a battery to run. But they all have one thing in common that continues not to change: they are all rigid objects.

Bending, folding, and deforming tech is something we expect to happen eventually, and have seen glimpses of it in the form of flexible displays and printed electronics. But for the moment, it seems flexibility remains a form of future tech we have yet to figure out.

That’s not going to stop design students experimenting with it, though. And the video you see above is the perfect example of how technology, user interaction, and flexible materials can be used to create something interesting.

The project is called TalkToMe, and it has been created by Vera Hausmann, Till Maria Jürgens, and Vitus Schuhwerk at the Köln International School of Design as part of a two week project. As you can see, a person placing their hand near the sheet of metal foil sees it begin to crumple up and deform. The movement is dynamically generated, producing new patterns all the time, which are influenced by the type of interaction the user displays with their hand movement and touch.

How that movement is achieved without obviously being attached to anything is hidden below the surface the foil sheet is resting on. The three design students used an Arduino board in order to sense the interactions above. The deformation of the flat foil surface is achieved using invisible string embedded in a grid formation within the sheet and controlled using servo-motors.

As a design project it’s certainly going to draw and keep your attention for a few minutes. But it also offers up a few ideas about the potential of future devices. For example, one day we will replace our rigid tablets with flexible displays you can fold away. Whose to say they won’t be able to react to hand gestures above them? Manually folding your device may be replaced with a specific gesture that sees it fold up automatically. You could even used auto-folding or crumpling as a form of privacy if your flexible device detects someone other than yourself is trying to read what’s on its display.

Now read: DRM for furniture: You wouldn’t download a chair

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