Computer scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a scalable shape display for walls and floors that produce reconfigurable structures on demand. In a recently released paper, the researchers detail how they created the reconfigurable platform dubbed "LiftTiles," which is capable of extending up to 1.5 meters for large-scale transformations.
The LiftTiles themselves were designed using inflatable actuators that are comprised of a plastic tube and constant force springs, which extend when air is forced into a rolled bag-like container and retract using the force of the spring when the air is removed via solenoid valve. By controlling the volume of air, the system can control the height of the actuators, which have a 30cm x 30cm footprint and can expand from 15cm to nearly five feet.
Each actuator is affixed to a base plate that can be anchored to either the floor or a wall and features a telescopic enclosure made of corrugated plastic sheets, allowing a user to sit or step on its surface. Each actuator is modular and can be connected using a T-shape plumbing joint connected at the end of the air-intake valve. Adjoining actuators are pneumatically connected via a silicon tube between the T-shape joints, enabling them to share pressurized air hoses.
The team believes LiftTiles reconfigurable room-scale shape displays offer three high-level interaction spaces, including adaptation to the user’s needs and situation, presentation of information or data to the user, and haptics to provide physical feedback of said information and data. They also feel the modular actuating platform could be used for actuating large objects existing objects or adding mobility in each unit for an autonomous and distributed shape display.