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Touchable surface (display) of lengthy blocks

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MIT has developed a new display which responds to touch or other inputs. This is not all: this ‘display’ has depth; it is using long blocks which may move up or down and are placed next to each other. The blocks don’t touch each other. It’s a 3D-display which can be touched: a shape-display.

The video starts with a person moving a red ball. Where is that person located? In the same room, in another city or country? A great perspective on how to operate things over a distance. Changing the length of the blocks related to the surface can move physical objects. What about giving more insight to a mathematical formula; it can be done. Lot’s of other applications are possible in the medical field, education, architecture etc. I can already imagine blind people making use this display.

A drawback comes into play when you look under the table and see the installation required to perform all the actions on the surface. It takes up a lot of space and the difference between the highest and lowest possible extension of the shape display depends on the length of the blocks which are placed and operated beneath the surface. To my understanding the presented shape display and all of it’s components cannot be easily moved to another building (like an iPad or so). It will likely be most of the time at the same position in a room. I imagine this is fine for most applications.

An extension wherein the camera looking down is being replaced by sensors within the blocks themselves could be the next evolution for the shape display. Measuring touches, pressure or for example temperature by the blocks themselves may open other use cases. Even placing additional LED-lights within the blocks can give more depth in usage. These extensions will provide more independence to the physical setup of a shape display.

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