Tag Archives: Reality Editor

Rewind: 50 gizmos and gadgets that made us say ‘wow’

2015 was quite the year. Here are just some of the awesome devices with mainstream appeal that caught our eye over the last 12 months. 


The first social robot that connects, protects and interacts with each member of your family.


If you give this automated machine $2, it will craft a peanut butter sandwich on white bread with your choice of honey, blackberry jam, sweet chili or chocolate sauce.


Finally, there’s an open source ergonomic keyboard that gives your overworked pinkies a break and puts your thumbs to work.

Voltera V-One

Tired of delays and unnecessary expenses? Then you’ll love this laptop-sized printer that can turn design files into prototype circuit boards in minutes.


Design, print and eat your own pancakes.

PicoBrew Pico

Why head out to the package store when you can brew your own fresh, personalized craft beer right at home?

Forever 21 Thread Screen

The team of BREAKFAST and Forever 21 developed a massive, one-ton machine that turns your Instagram photos into thread artwork.


From hip-hop to dubstep, this wearable kit lets you play music right from your body using 100+ sounds and 300+ music applications.


While it may look like a 3D printer, this PCB milling machine enables you to prototype circuit boards right from your desk.

Tech Tats

Chaotic Moon Studios have devised a cutting-edge tattoo kit, which allows for the monitoring of your own body activity.

Layered Fabric 3D Printer

Who needs a toy store when you can 3D print your own soft and deformable stuffed animals from layers of off-the-shelf fabric?


Sand castles are so 2014. This turtlish autonomous robot can create large scale art on the beach.

OpenROV Trident

Whereas most drones are made for the sky, this remote-controlled, camera-equipped ROV is meant for underwater exploration.

Reality Editor

What if reprogramming your devices was as simple as drawing lines between them? Thanks to MIT’s Fluid Interfaces Group, it may soon be.


Sorry selfie sticks, your days are numbered. This palm-sized drone features GPS auto-following and a high-res camera.

BeON Home

There are smart lights, then there are out-smart lights. This system will make having a safer, smarter home as simple as screwing in a bulb.

PowerUp FPV

Your old-school paper airplane just got a whole heck of a lot cooler with a live-streaming camera.


A revolutionary pen that turns the world around you into a notepad.

The Things Network

Make your city smart with this global, crowdsourced and decentralized IoT network.

Ripple Maker

A 3D printing-inspired device that can etch art on the foam of your coffee.


Grow my gosh! This 2015 Hackaday Prize entry is the world’s first open source CNC farming machine.

Alpha 2

Could this humanoid robot become the newest addition to your family?


By tapping into the human sensor, this intelligent technology can significantly improve decision-making for anyone’s health and well-being.


Replace your keys with your smartphone in just seconds.


Like OnStar for seniors, this all-in-one, voice-controlled wearable will help keep the elderly independent, active and safe.


The most adaptable shoes you’ll ever own, customized straight from your smartphone.


A wireless button that can control your favorite smart functions.


A $9 computer. ‘nuff said.

DrinkMate Mini

Have you had a couple of drinks? Don’t worry, this tiny iPhone breathalyzer has got your BAC!


Love nugget ice? Hate buying bags? This affordable gadget is for you.


This high-precision, Arduino-based desktop robotic arm can do pretty much anything.


BYOD: Build your own device! Piece together your own phone and give inanimate objects the power of cellular communication.


Based on the Arduino and Raspberry Pi, this open source A.I. system plays media, controls lights and more.

Spinn Coffee

This appliance can whip up anything from drip coffee to espresso, depending on how fast the brewer spins.


Who needs weather apps when you can recreate the forecast from right inside your living room?


A complete personal fabrication system crammed into a single, sleek robotic arm for your desk.

Fibonacci Clock

Think reading an analog clock is tough? Tell time using glowing lights and the Fibonacci sequence.


Design and create seamless, ready-to-wear garments based on custom 3D geometries.


Could this soccer ball-shaped drone be the safest flying bot to date?


A drone that can fly and swim.


Sharp unveiled a new smartphone in the form of an adorable robot.

Dancing Paper

Bet you’ve never seen a bunch of origami bust a move.


A portable guitar that teaches you to play and lets you jam on the go.


This modular case for your smartphone gives you the ability to add and remove physical modules whenever necessary.


A new breed of instruments that can drop the beat at home, in the studio or live on stage.


What if you could play a handpan like an electronic musical instrument?


The world’s first olfactory alarm clock wakes you up with your favorite scents instead of sound.


This smart lamp learns your habits, syncs to your body clock and keeps you healthy through natural lighting patterns.

CMYK 4.0

If you’re looking to make your commute from home to the office a bit more efficient, then this foldable electric bike may be for you.


The world’s first artificially intelligent companion bot, designed to engage and grow with you.


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

Cord UIs

Imagine if you could control your gadgetry using cords and cables.


There’s finally an automated smart trashcan that not only opens with a wave of a hand but vacuums up dust and restocks itself.


These smart socks will pause your binge-watching session when you fall asleep.


Goodbye, shaky hands! Transform your smartphone into a 3D scanner.


This open source platform turns your physical world into a digital interface

The brainchild of MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group, Open Hybrid is an augmented reality platform for physical computing and the Internet of Things.

The Xerox Star was the first commercially available computer showing a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Since its debut in 1981, many of its introduced concepts have remained the same, especially with regards to how we interact with our digital world: a pointing device for input, some sort of keyboard for commands and a GUI for interaction. However, with many of today’s physical objects becoming increasingly connected to the Internet, Valentin Heun of MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group believes that GUI has hit its limit when it comes to extending its reach beyond the borders of the screen.


This problem is nothing new, though. Dating back the days of text-only command lines, interface designers have always been challenged by the imbalance between the countless commands that a computer can interpret, and the number of which one could store in their brain at one time.

As Heun points out, physical things have been crafted and shaped by designers over centuries to fit the human body. Because of their shape and appearance, we can access and control them intuitively. So wouldn’t an ideal solution be one in which both the digital and physical worlds come together in seamless fashion? That’s the idea behind what he and his MIT Media Lab collaborators call Open Hybrid. This project would enable users to directly map a digital interface right onto a physical item. By doing so, you would ever need to memorize a drop-down menu or app again.


Think about it, the use of these so-called smart objects isn’t all that easy. Take a smart light bulb, for instance, which might have millions of color options, thousands of brightness settings and various hue-changing patterns to select from. But in order to adjust the light, you need to first take your phone out of your pocket, enter a passcode to unlock it, open an app and search for the bulb within its main menu, all before finally accessing its functionality — a process that previously only required tapping a wall switch now requires multiple steps. Aside from that, the more objects that one has throughout their home or office, the more complex it becomes to find them in the app’s drop-down menu.

In an effort to solve this conundrum, Heun has developed the Reality Editor, which offers designers a simple solution for creating connected objects by using web standards and Arduino, in addition to a streamlined way to customize the objects’ behavior with an augmented-reality interface that eliminates complicated, and often unnecessary, steps.


“The amount of apps and drop-down menus in your phone will become so numerous that it will become impossible for you to memorize what app and what menu name is connected with each device. In this case, you might find yourself standing in the kitchen and all you want to do is switch on a light in front of you,” he writes.

These new tangible things are known as Hybrid Objects, as they share the best characteristics of virtual and physical UIs: a virtual interface for occasional modifying, connecting and learning about them, as well as physical interface for everyday operations. Meaning, this system transforms the actual physical world into a transparent window, while the smartphone in your pocket acts as a magnifying glass that can be used to edit reality when necessary.

How it works is pretty straightforward: Hold your phone up so the camera is pointed towards the object, while the app displays a virtual control panel hovering over the item — whether it’s a drone, a lamp, a kitchen appliance, a radio or even an entertainment system. This will prompt its settings and whatever other menu options to magically appear.


You’ll also see nodes corresponding to the physical controls the gadget offers, and can then create interactions between devices by drawing a line from the origin I/O to the designation I/O. And voilà!

“Traditionally, you would create some kind of standard that knows every possible representation of the relevant objects so that every interface can be defined. For example, say you have two objects, a toaster and a food processor, and now you would need to create a standard that knows how to connect these two objects.”

With Open Hybrid you have a visual representation of your object’s functionalities augmented onto the physical object. Where before an abstract standard needed to be devised, you can now just visually break down an object to all its components. Using the same example from above, the toaster now consists of a heating element, a setup button, a push slider and a timing rotation dial. All of these elements are represented with a number between 0.0 and 1.0. This same simple representation applies to the food processor. If you want to connect two things, you are really only pairing the numbers associated with each given item, never the objects themselves.

“This is the power of Open Hybrid. Now that the interface allows you break down every object to its components, you only need to deal with the smallest entity of a message: a number. As such, Open Hybrid is compatible with every Hybrid Object that has been created, and any object that will be built,” Heun adds.


What’s nice is that all of the data about the interfaces and connections are stored on the object itself, and each one communicates directly with handheld devices or with one another, so there’s never a need for any centralized hubs or cloud servers.

The Reality Editor is built on the same open standards that are fundamental to the Internet nowadays, such as HTML, Javascript and Open Frameworks. It runs on low-cost, low-power hardware — which in this case is the Arduino Yún (ATmega32U4) — and is easily compatible with other platforms. The system does require at least 400MhZ, 32MB of RAM, 100MB of memory, as well as TCP/IP and UDP networking capabilities.

“Wherever you can run node.js you can run the Hybrid Object platform. We have successfully experimented with MIPS, ARM, x86 and x64 systems on Windows, Linux and OSX,” Heun notes. “If you have the latest head-mounted, projected or holographic interfaces, feel free to compile the code for your platform and share your findings with the community.”

Safe to say, it’s always exciting to see new projects come out of MIT’s Fluid Interfaces Group. While we’ve seen several attempts in bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds before, this one is certainly among the most unique. Intrigued? Head over to Open Hybrid’s detailed page here to learn more, or watch Heun’s recent Solid 2015 presentation below.