The Tangible Media Group at MIT Media Lab has developed a way to use a 3D pin-based shape display to assemble structures out of building blocks.
The Kinetic Blocks display is composed of computer-controlled pins that can move up and down in sync. It’s paired with a Microsoft Kinect to detect the location of blocks placed on it.
The display can rotate blocks in place, move them, stack them and even follow construction commands to create structures with them. They remind me of the microbots in Disney’s Big Hero 6, which could be controlled with a wearable neurotransmitter to join together and move large objects or build things.
MIT’s system isn’t as ambitious, but it’s remarkable nonetheless. It could be used to enhance computer-aided design (CAD) and manufacturing by building objects using pre-programmed instructions or by mimicking an operator’s actions.
It could also be integrated into educational toolkits like AlgoBlocks to help kids learn programming with an interactive physical environment, or develop an interface for creating and manipulating music.