Tag Archives: MIT Tangible Media Group

HydroMorph turns splashing water into an interactive display

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.

LineFORM is a futuristic shape-changing interface

This shape-changing soft robot can be a phone, a wristwatch, a keyboard, a lamp and more.

When it comes to today’s mobile devices, the touchscreen has increasingly become one of the most common ways that we interact with our gadgetry. From our smartphones to our in-car infotainment systems to our computers, seemingly everything has a touch display. However, one team from MIT’s Tangible Media Group wants to change that.


The researchers have developed a shape-shifting, snake-like soft robot built from actuated curve interfaces that can transform into pretty much anything — from a phone, to a wristwatch, to a lamp, to a cable, to an exoskeleton. The project, called LineFORM, is comprised of several small servo motors controlled by an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560), which are covered by a black spandex skin embedded with pressure sensors. The linear set of motors can move either together with the others or independently to create all sorts of shapes for various applications in a matter of seconds. Meanwhile, the system is connected to a MacBook running custom programs written in Processing.


The hope is that LineFORM will open up new ways to engage with technology. According to the team, “We envisage LineFORM-style devices coupled with flexible displays as next generation mobile devices, which can display complex information, provide affordances on demand for different tasks, and constrain user interaction.”

For example, LineFORM can be worn around your wrist and give you a tap when an appointment is approaching, and then curl up into a touch-sensitive keypad. It can wiggle and vibrate whenever you receive a text message. It can twist into an assortment of shapes and be employed as a “dynamic ruler” for drafting and drawing. It can wrap around your limps like bandages and act like a robotic exoskeleton, while also recording motion and replaying it back on your body. What’s more, a light module enables it to magically turn into tabletop lamp for reading.


Although still a proof-of-concept, LineFORM boasts endless possibilities, and who knows, may one day be the single replacement for the dozens of electronics we use everyday for countless things. Intrigued? Check out the project’s paper here, or just watch it in action below!