Researchers at Disney have combined the magic of light pipes (clear tubes that allow a light source to travel to a different physical location) with real time sensing and display to create interactive objects that have no embedded electronics. By placing one of these composite objects on an illuminated interactive surface, they can become central to the user’s interactive experience, allowing people to fully engage with a physical object rather than a flat screen. The ultimate vision involves using multi-material 3D printing techniques, so that the objects will be able to be designed digitally and then emerge from the printer with the light pipe capabilities already embedded. This is an exciting innovation in interaction which would enable the creation of really robust and inexpensive objects that also had a high degree of sophistication in terms of interactivity.
We’re impatient to play with this technology and are already scheming ways to make some of our own light-pipe enabled parts.
The video below does a good job of explaining exactly how it will work and showing some of the possibilities for interaction: