Master's Thesis Case Study | MIT School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and MIT School of Architecture | 2018
CAD software has made it possible to create digital models of free-form curves and surfaces quickly and easily, just by drawing curves and manipulating them by moving their control points. Doing the same task in physical world (craft/ making) requires a high-level mastery in model making, and a significant amount of time and resources. On the other hand, the richness of multi-sensory interaction with material is itself a source of embodied design knowledge that enhances design process and creativity. Aiming to create an interface that bridges between digital and physical model making, NURBSforms is a shape-changing interface that lets designers create and manipulate NURBS-based models in physical form, just as easily as they do in CAD software.
Each module of NURBSforms represents a base curve with variable curvature, with the amount of its curvature being controlled by the designer, and represented through real-time actuation of material. Similar to NURBS-based software, a user can manipulate and control the curvature by moving the control points. By connecting multiple base-curves together, the designer can create more complex curves and surfaces in 2D or 3D space. NURBSforms bridges between digital and physical model making by bringing digital capabilities such as such as transformation, programmability, repeatability and reversibility (as equivalent to the commands such as Copy, Paste, Undo, Redo, etc,) to the physical modality.
I have implemented two modalities for interacting with NURBSforms shape-changing interface: Direct Manipulation using embedded sensors, and Gestural Control using Leap motion sensor. Direct manipulation with NURBSforms module facilitates the embedded Hall-effect sensors and Autonomous control of modules. In order to interact with the interface, user can hold a piece magnet close to the sensor area on modules. Depending on the polarity of magnet directed towards the sensor, the curvature increases or decreases.