Levitated Interaction Element, 2011
Collaborators: Rehmi Post (Circuit Design), Hiroshi Ishii(Academic Support)
I think there is something fundamental behind motivations to liberate physical matter from gravity and enable control. The motivation has existed as a shared dream amongst humans for millennia. It is an idea found in mythologies, desired by alchemists, and visualized in Science Fiction movies. I have aspired to create a space where we can experience a glimpse of this future. A space where materials are free from gravitational constraints and controllable through computing technologies. ZeroN is about liberating materials from the constraints of space and time by blending the physical and digital.
ZeroN is a new interactive object that floats and moves in space through computer controlled magnetic levitation. Both people and computer can place or move the ZeroN to anywhere within a predefined 3D space. Once Levitated, ZeroN’s behavior can be digitally programmed. It can be repeated, scaled or interrupted by people. By doing so, computers and people can physically interact with one another in 3D.
ZeroN can remember how it has been moved. Physical motions of people can be collected in this medium to preserve and play them back indefinitely. When the users move and release the ZeroN, it continues to float and starts to move along the same path. This allows a unique, tangible record of a user's physical presence and motion which will continue to exist.
Even though the main goal of ZeroN at this stage was to explore a larger design space rather than solving a practical problems, we can already think of multiple applications of ZeroN in design, education, collaboration and various science visualizations. For example you can leave a ZeroN that represents a light-source above an architectural model to cast the virtual shadow, or place a ‘planet’ near the sun which will start orbiting. ZeroN attempts to take tangible interaction off the surface and extend them into mid-air space.
To realize such interactions, we developed a magnetic control system that can levitate and actuate a permanent magnet in a pre- defined 3D volume. This is combined with an optical tracking and display system that projects images on the levitating object. Conventional levitation only enables levitating an object at one point. In ZeroN Project, users can move a levitated object to anywhere in a predefined 3D space and leave it there without dropping it since the system constantly readjusts both magnetically and mechanically. It is about turning 3D space into ‘levitatable’ space.