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MIT unveils the shapeshifting furniture of the future

Fast Company posted about the latest project out of MIT’s Tangible Media Group: shape-shifting furniture.

When it was first unveiled last year, the inFORM–a shapeshifting display that you can reach through and touch–was meant to be a sort of digital scrying pool through which MIT could imagine the user interfaces of the future. Currently on display at Milan’s Design Week, the inFORM’s successor (called, appropriately enough, the Transform) is a scrying pool too, but instead of helping us imagine the interfaces of the future, it’s here to teach us what the polymorphous furniture of tomorrow will be like instead.

Created by Daniel Leithinger and Sean Follmer and overseen by professor Hiroshi Ishii at MIT’s Tangible Media Group, the inFORM was essentially a self-aware monitor that didn’t just display light; it could display shape, too. Additionally, it could sense when users were interacting with it. Using the inFORM, you could shake hands with someone at another computer across the world, just as easily as you might Skype from someone on your laptop.

The inFORM was an exciting look at the possibilities of future computer UIs. But it didn’t quite capture all the ideas that the Tangible Media Lab was hoping to get across. “When most people look at inFORM, what they see is a big computer interface,” Leithinger says. “And that’s even how we thought of it. But in the future, computers aren’t going to look like computers. They’re going to be embedded in everything around us.”

With Transform, the Tangible Media Group wanted to explore what the shapeshifting furniture of tomorrow might be like. What if the design of your furniture weren’t static, but could change according to your nature, your personality, and more? Imagine a chair that could transform from an upright rocker to a sumptuous lounge, just by detecting your mood.

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