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How Your Coffee Table Could Pass Your Coffee

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the civets-could-pass-your-coffee-too dept.

Technology 55

mikejuk writes with this tantalizing excerpt about one possible future of furniture:"The mechanism of MIT's new shapeshifting output device is remarkably simple. It is based on the well known pin screen devices that you can use to take a 3D impression of an object. A 2D plate of pins can be moved to create a surface.In the same way, inForm uses a set of rods and actuators to create dynamic surfaces. The big difference is that the actuators are under computer control. Now you have a computer controlled surface and what is really surprising is how much you can get from this simple idea. With the help of a 3D depth camera and some innovative software, the surface can act as an output device that lets you manipulate real objects remotely. If you use the surface as a table then your computer can bring you real objects such as your mobile phone — see the video to believe it. While there are many obvious serious applications such as displaying volumetric CT scans, displaying complex data or providing early experience of prototypes there is also the possibility of having fun with the device. After all simple pinscreens are still sold as executive toys. Could there be a new generation of games in this?"

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And? (2)

Zanadou (1043400) | about 9 months ago | (#45443157)

Pass coffee?? I can do that all by myself, thank you.

Re:And? (2)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 9 months ago | (#45443301)

Screw passing the coffee, we can all do that easily enough. So, can it pass a kidney stone, or do some other job that would save effort?

You know what's coming. (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 9 months ago | (#45444915)

One word: Tablejob.

Re:You know what's coming. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45445945)

... ummm ... pinhead?

Re: You know what's coming. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446183)

Imagine one of those little pins being thrust in and out of your urethra while simultaneously fondling your balls.

MIT's new shapeshifting output device (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 9 months ago | (#45443171)

Rene Auberjenois wants a word with you guys, something about prior art.

Re:MIT's new shapeshifting output device (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45444057)

Rene Auberjenois wants a word with you guys, something about prior art.

Also this identical idea was used in the 2000 movie X-MEN to display a 3D semi-animated map of New York Bay and the Statue of Liberty while they were planing their attack to stop one of Magneto's plans.

Re:MIT's new shapeshifting output device (1)

killkillkill (884238) | about 9 months ago | (#45445195)

Unoriginal and they complicated the design by adding all the electronics when all you need is some boxes and a few hundred Chinese men [youtube.com]

Re:MIT's new shapeshifting output device (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 8 months ago | (#45445763)

I know they're small, but I doubt even 2 would fit under my coffee table, let alone hundreds.

Re:MIT's new shapeshifting output device (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446661)

Dude, you don't have a giant dungeon lair under your living room?

That's a school-boy error, right there.

n by n actuators??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443179)

Why not one or more (for speed) moving lines of actuators. I guess there is some trick (magnetic field, whatever) to temporarily unlock a row of pins, then move further.

Re:n by n actuators??? (1)

aix tom (902140) | about 9 months ago | (#45443625)

Because then instead of only n by n actuators to actually move the pins, you would need n by n actuators to lock/unlock the pins plus your "moving actuators" plus something to move them.

Re:n by n actuators??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45447945)

One actuator might be enough to "unlock" a whole updated row. Two "update lines" with n actuators each might go in opposite directions to reduce vibration of the machine. See how low res is their device, perhaps because of the cost of all these actuators.

Re:n by n actuators??? (1)

aix tom (902140) | about 8 months ago | (#45448687)

The actuators themselves are probably not even that expensive. A decent stepping motor can be had at under ~$10 if you buy a large enough quantity.

I spent a few years building packaging machines that used that kind of things. Even with more expensive actuators that can move a few kilograms the cost of "actually installing and aligning them" in the machine is multiple times the price of the actual actuator. Having an actuator "move" between different parts it has to actuate feels like it's going to take one hell of accurate alignment nightmare between all the involved parts. And instead of install and align an actuator once it would have to be kept in alignment all the time somehow.

My gut feeling is that the way to bring the price down would be to find a way to mass-produce, say, a 8x8 grid of cheap actuators that could then be stacked in either direction. You might even be able to come up with a ways that you some of the parts now needed for one actuator might only be needed once per 8x8 group.

slashdot submitters incapable of thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443181)

If you actually tried to use this to "pass your coffee" it would almost certainly spill it.

(captcha: "befoul." Even the captcha-generator is smarter than the submitter.)

Re:slashdot submitters incapable of thought (2, Insightful)

Githaron (2462596) | about 9 months ago | (#45443993)

At this resolution, yes probably. At a much higher resolution, it could be quite possible.

Re:slashdot submitters incapable of thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45444165)

How? It can only move up and down; it moves objects by creating a ramp for them to roll down.

I don't now about you, but I rarely prepare my coffee by putting it inside a sealed sphere.

Re:slashdot submitters incapable of thought (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 9 months ago | (#45444895)

Consider raising a pin which is just barely under the side of a cup. Chances are the cup will slide sideways away from the pin.

Re:slashdot submitters incapable of thought (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 8 months ago | (#45448837)

Until someone breaks into the system and deliberately spills your coffee.

At Last! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443189)

The ability to punch somebody over the Internet.

FINALLY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443205)

No more asking that bitch to pass me the salt!

I gotta be honest (1)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 9 months ago | (#45443213)

I've seen this piece of junk all over the internet lately. It has approximately 0 uses in the real world.

Re:I gotta be honest (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 9 months ago | (#45443235)

1 use: mindless video subject matter

Re:I gotta be honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443321)

I've seen this piece of junk all over the internet lately. It has approximately 0 uses in the real world.

But wait! ACT NOW and you'll get not one, but TWO coffee cups absolutely FREE with your order. These cups were specially designed for use with the incredible 3D Shapeshifter developed by MIT scientists.

Operators are standing by, but this is a limited time offer, so hurry!

Re:I gotta be honest (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 9 months ago | (#45443435)

Today its not useful. That is how most technology starts. Great to see you are so limited in your thinking.

Re:I gotta be honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443491)

But there's no new idea here and neither new pushrod technology.

Re:I gotta be honest (1)

Jamie Ian Macgregor (3389757) | about 8 months ago | (#45450569)

I reckon, pushrods are so 70-80's I thought it was all about overhead cams now?

this skeptic is stoked (2, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | about 9 months ago | (#45443775)

I've seen this piece of junk all over the internet lately. It has approximately 0 uses in the real world.

I feel your anger towards 'internet hype' in general but I gotta be honest I thought this was cool.

'coffee table that can pass your drink' is a contextualization of the technology for a sort of 'pop-science' audience...looking at the tech I think it has legs.

I make tshirts (and do tech consulting)...my goal is to produce tshirts from US grown hemp...I can def imagine an application of this technology at a few key spots in the production process. Probably somethign to do with sorting.

it's just one dumb article...but IMHO it's cool

Re:I gotta be honest (1)

Githaron (2462596) | about 9 months ago | (#45444197)

I don't know. The function visualization feature looked pretty cool.

Programmable furniture (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 8 months ago | (#45449765)

Are you kidding? Maybe not as a table, but I would *love* to have a living room floor made out of this stuff. Furniture that forms and dissipates on command, how cool would that be? Not to mention I bet it could make a pretty awesome massage chair.

Where's the porn? (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about 9 months ago | (#45443215)

Like all technology, we won't know that it's viable until they make porn with it.

Re:Where's the porn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443241)

small remote control devices to either cover or be inserted into people. It'll happen.

Re:Where's the porn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443285)

If you remember the movie, Barbarella [wikipedia.org] , it seems that this would be a higher-tech replacement for a device in the movie called the Excessive Machine.

Re:Where's the porn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443819)

I was thinking "can they make the shape of lips"?

Re:Where's the porn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45445071)

And it's not mainstream until someone kills with it.

Now we need a machine that burns the coffee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443239)

So we can all have our own Starbucks. Plus an audio track with three baristas chatting about movies they just saw or want to see, while customers are waiting in line.

Kindle for Blind people! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443327)

There are lots of applications for blind people. Think about it!
They would not be limited to just Braile.
Of course the resolution needs to improve.

Would someone with better imagination than mine think of specific products?

Cool (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 9 months ago | (#45443373)

That is cool. But at the same time it is also the most lame way I could imagine to move stuff around.
All the examples they show could be done better with a robot hand or two, with a FAR smaller number of actuators.
Software that detects the position of each finger already exists.

How Your Coffee Table Could Pass Your Coffee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443401)

How Your Coffee Table Could Pass Your Coffee

Thanks but no thanks, I pass my coffee quite nicely on my own; usually about a half hour or so after I've drunk it.

Ray Kurzweil was right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443421)

The Singularity is here. Immortality here we come!

Spills hot coffee.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443463)

..sue MIT

Watch the video (4, Insightful)

Dynedain (141758) | about 9 months ago | (#45443475)

What's so impressive about this isn't in the summary. The cool part is that they developers have already considered (and built prototypes) of all kinds of interactive models that this could support. Remote control, tactile user interfaces, light and color manipulation, soooo much more than "bring me my phone".

The video blows the summary out of the water.

Fake (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45443621)

So obvious. It even looks like stop-motion video.

Re:Watch the video (1)

floodo1 (246910) | about 9 months ago | (#45444419)

And yet almost none of them are compelling :(

Re:Watch the video (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45445971)

In a few years that'll be down to thin pins, with tiny LEDs embedded. Lots of interactive uses to that. Enlarge it and you could have an entire transportation system. Roads that move you.

Re:Watch the video (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45445845)

Your post made me check the FA. Frankly, the summary made me imagine something a lot better than this.
  Like say a flexible touch panel over the stuff. Servos, some crude motion capture and a projector? If all the pieces weren't damn expensive this is more of a high school project than some MIT breakthrough.
Even an eventual retina version isn't all that appealing. This is still ultimately 2d just like the stereoscopic 3d flop.

sort my Duplos (1)

hamjudo (64140) | about 9 months ago | (#45443559)

I was going to use the subject, Sort My Legos, but the prototype resolution is too low. With more actuators, you could dump Lego bricks on the table and have it sort them for you. Or for the more practical minded, sort wrenches, nuts and bolts.

Not new (2, Informative)

hammeraxe (1635169) | about 9 months ago | (#45443573)

This isn't really anything new. Here's another example of similar technology by Festo used in materials handling/sorting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVUx_0VN5PQ [youtube.com]

A link without a million ad scripts. (3, Insightful)

istartedi (132515) | about 9 months ago | (#45443635)

Drop NoScript on the first few, then a dozen more come up. I won't use that kind of site. Here's a better link. [youtube.com]

Cleaning it though... (1)

RampantTycho (2881669) | about 9 months ago | (#45443693)

What happens to this surface when you spill your coffee on it? Even if it is made to not be damaged by such an event, it sounds like this table would be a b*tchh to clean.

Been done. (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 9 months ago | (#45444709)

This idea has come around many times. Howard Hughes, when he was recovering from an accident, had a bed custom-made for him with many foam pads on screw jacks. (This was the inspiration for the CGI version of such a bed in the Wolverine movie.) The Festo Wave surface is a nice implementation, especially because it's composed of a large number of identical units that latch together and make electrical and pneumatic connections.

Back in the 1970s, there was a 3D plotter which had an X-Y positioner and a big spool of stiff wire, which it would push through a sheet of wallboard to the desired height and cut off. Because all the machinery was under the table, it looked impressive, as 3D graphs made of many thin wires appeared above the table.

There's another way to move objects around on a surface. If you have a flat plate which can be vibrated in X, Y, and rotation [roboticsproceedings.org] , you can move objects around on it. If you vibrate something with a sawtooth wave, during the slow part of the ramp, you move objects by static friction. But during the steep return part of the ramp, you accelerate the plate fast enough to get out of the static friction region, so the object slips slightly.

But you can do more. By combining rotational and linear vibration, you can affect some objects more than others. For pure rotational vibration, objects near the center of rotation aren't affected. By appropriate combinations of rotational and translational vibration, multiple objects can be moved around independently. There was a demo of this as a robot chessboard about ten years ago. UPS was interested in it for box sorting, but it didn't work out with mixed real-world boxes.

Re:Been done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45527853)

That last sentence explains part of why the vibration system never took off. It will require a lot of processing power to dynamically adapt to different sizes, weights and textures. The other problem, I would imagine, is noise. 6 voice coil actuators vibrating a metal plate at high power sounds like earplugs would be required.

Nope (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 9 months ago | (#45445365)

I don't see any possible "new generation of games" based upon passing me my coffee cup.

At least not as long as I'm still able to reach over and pick it up myself.

Re:Nope (1)

PPH (736903) | about 8 months ago | (#45445739)

The bar at your local tavern can move your beer out of reach when it thinks you've had enough.

Re:Nope (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 8 months ago | (#45445805)

I don't see any possible "new generation of games" based upon passing me my coffee cup.

At least not as long as I'm still able to reach over and pick it up myself.

Oh come on! That video had Pong written all over it.

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