Taking this a step further, Professor Sean Follmer from Stanford University is developing shape-shifting technology that will not only change our physical environments in both appearance and role, but will subsequently allow the virtual world to essentially “leak” out into our physical space.
“With my colleagues, Daniel Leithinger and Hiroshi Ishii, we created inFORM, where the interface can actually come off the screen and you can physically manipulate it. Or you can visualize 3D information physically and touch it and feel it to understand it in new ways. Or you can interact through gestures and direct deformations to sculpt digital clay. Or interface elements can arise out of the surface and change on demand.”
– Prof. Sean Follmer
Working on top of the idea of using pneumatic actuators to shape-shift physical objects, Prof. Follmer and his team had also developed morphing devices which could start off as a phone, but then transform itself into a wrist band. Subsequently, at each user’s behest, they’d be able to mold the device to their own preference and the object will know what it transformed into and react as it appears. The only limitation? Your imagination.
While the shape-shifting devices shown in the above video might appear crude and unappealing right now, time is our only barrier here. In the future, every device you come into contact with will be able to morph itself into something else. Our architecture will be to shape-shift to accommodate expansion, weather conditions, or even to help people walk across areas that would otherwise be un-crossable. Our wearable devices will be able to transform into even larger objects and will contain interactive interfaces, allowing us to control other shape-shifting objects in real-time.
Not only that, there will no longer be any distinct difference between the virtual world and the physical. Using a combination of technologies – haptic, holography, VR/AR, etc. – how people interact with and manipulate the virtual world will be no different from how we interact with and manipulate the physical world. In fact, they’ll be one in the same thing. In other words, while we may only see technologies today, like the inFORM, as nothing more than a mere virtual “leak” into our physical space, in 10 to 20 years time, that “leak” will transform into a full blown tsunami. Brace yourselves!
Photo Credit: Sean Follmer/TED Talk