Imagine being in a video conference, having an object placed in front of you and being able to reach out and touch it. That is essentially what new technology from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will allow you to do.
inFORM, technology created by MIT’s Tangible Media Group, gives a person the ability to “interact with digital information in a tangible way,” according to the group’s website. The technology is a Dynamic Shape Display that renders three-dimensional content physically.

A person places an object in front of a depth-sensing camera, like the Kinect. The camera sends signals to inFORM, which is basically a pinscreen with each pin attached to an individual motor, and that screen is where the 3D image shows up. If the person on the camera moves their hands, the movement would be displayed on the pinscreen.

“Past research on shape displays has primarily focused on rendering content and user interface elements through shape output, with less emphasis on dynamically changing UIs,” said the group’s website.“We propose utilizing shape displays in three different ways to mediate interaction: to facilitate by providing dynamic physical affordances through shape change, to restrict by guiding users with dynamic physical constraints, and to manipulate by actuating physical objects.”

In the future, the group hopes to see the technology used by urban planners, architects and even doctors.

inFORM is a step toward the Tangible Media Group’s vision of  “Radical Atoms.”

More information about inFORM can be found here.