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MIT develops inFORM, blows your mind by rendering digital stuff in 3D physically

Think your mouse and keyboard are pretty rad input devices? How about your 27-inch monitor? They’re like chisels and spears compared to inFORM, something that the wizards at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just unveiled. inFORM can reproduce digital content physically in 3D, which allows you to interact with it. Simply put, this could be the future of PC interaction.

Like something out of Back to the Future or TRON, the inFORM can also react to the world around it, as well as be used like an input device akin to a mouse or keyboard. The inFORM can be used for everything from physically rendering bar graphs and 3D models which you can touch like you would any other object. And forget Skype calls; the inFORM can create a physical version of someone who, for example, rings into a conference call from afar. The inFORM was developed by MIT PhD students Sean Follmer, Daniel Leithinger, and Professor Hiroshi Ishii, from MIT’s Tangible Media Group.

The inFORM’s possible applications go way beyond making your conference calls a more futuristic experience though. Think of what being able to render objects in 3D can do for such fields like architecture, urban planning, engineering and the like. Follmer says that having the ability to render an object in 3D physically allows you to “better understand it.”

“The traditional sort of interaction design and device design sort of assumes for a very static way of interacting and this [inFORM] device can change its physical form very quickly and that means that we need to come up with new ways that we interact with technology,” Follmer said.

Follmer also said that the inFORM was “quite expensive” to make. Just to give you an idea, the inFORM contains 900 small motors which control each pin on it. Every pin works to render objects in 3D, and each motor costs between $20 and $30. Also, considering that this is an MIT project, don’t expect this to be available at your local Best Buy or Amazon this holiday season.

Watch this video about inFORM below while we pick our jaws up off the floor.