This MIT team has created what they call a water “membrane” that can shift shapes instantly.
A team from MIT’s Tangible Media Group has discovered a new way to turn splashing water into an interactive display, exploiting the same phenomena you’ve experienced if you ever ran a spoon under a faucet.
Using a series of actuators and sensors placed under a stream of water, HydroMorph is able to change the shapes that result whenever water splashes onto the surface of the device, creating what they call a “dynamic spatial water membrane” that can shift from a flower to a flapping bird to an interactive countdown timer.
“HydroMorph gives a life to water, giving it a voice through its shape change. We envision a world filled with living water that conveys information, supports daily life, and captivates us,” the team writes.
Aside from the water-shaping device, the system is comprised of a computer, a camera, an Arduino (ATmega328), and a water source. As the stream hits the device, various shapes are created based on the actuation data sent from software on the computer through the MCU. The camera, which is mounted above the system, detects physical objects and human hands around the device by distinguishing color of them.
HydroMorph itself consists of a flat circular surface and an array of 10 arrow-like modules, each composed of an actuated block, a linkage mechanism and an Arduino-controlled servo motor. These arrows are arranged in a circle and pointing upward towards the stream.
As a stream of water hits the flat surface, a membrane is formed and each module blocks the membrane to manipulate the particular shape. Using the linkage mechanism to convert the rotary motion to linear motion, servo motors enable a vertical displacement of the blocks. The software, built using Processing, generates the shapes based on the way water reacts to the height of each blocker.
“Imagining this device applied in daily life or in public spaces would give, on a practical level, a more responsive and sensitive way to interact with water. On a conceptual level, HydroMorph expands the vocabulary of interactions with this everyday medium of water,” the group adds.
Some of the use cases include notifying you whether or not water is safe to drink by revealing a full-bloomed or wilted flower, extending the functionality of a faucet by filling one or more cups by directing streams of water into them, as well as revealing the weather forecast by showing the iconic shape of an umbrella or sun.
Intrigued? Head over to the project’s paper, or watch it in action below.