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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.


NURBSForms Gerstural interface


Free-form manipulation of the curves using gestural control


Aggregation of NURBSForms base modules can create more complex curves and surfaces. Because of magnetic physical connections and I2C Digital communication between modules, there is no technical limitation for increasing the number of modules connected together in the interface.


NURBSForms base module utilizes Shape-memory Nitinol actuator, which enables precise digital control over its curvature


Gestural control over NURBSForms Base Module


Direct manipulation of NURBSForms modules using embedded magnetic sensors


Easily accessible fabrication technique for creating flexible circuits as the basis of NURBSforms modules

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.

Gestural control provides a more natural and intuitive way for interacting with NURBSforms interface. Using intuitive gestures such as pinching, a user can hover their hand over NURBS modules, grab their control point, and adjust the height of each curve. I have used Leap Motion sensor for detecting user’s hand, accompanied by machine-learning set-up in Javascript for recognizing different gestures. Additional functions such as Save, Load, and Reset is assigned to different recognizable gestures, such as grabbing, waving, and swiping.

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