Table top by MIT designers ripples
when people are nearby

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Milan 2014: designers from MIT Media Lab's Tangible Media Group have created a shape-shifting table that reacts to human presence with a series of 1,000 tiny motors built into the frame (+ movie).

Transform by Tangible Media Group MIT

Named Transform, the table is divided into three separate surfaces, where more than 1,000 small squares attached to individual motors that are hidden from view.

Transform by Tangible Media Group MIT

When a user passes their hand across the surface, the individual squares rise up in sequence and create a ripple effect.

Transform by Tangible Media Group MIT

The table can also create abstract shapes on its own, and transfer objects across the surface, thanks to a series of pre-programmed animation sequences.

Transform by Tangible Media Group MIT

Transform was created by Daniel Leithinger and Sean Follmer and overseen by their professor Hiroshi Ishii.

"A pixel is intangible," Ishii told Dezeen. "You can only use it through mediating and remote control, like a mouse or a touchscreen. We decided to physically embody computation and information."

Transform by Tangible Media Group MIT
Hiroshi Ishii, head of concept design for Transform

According to the team, the concept is a look at how furniture could evolve in future. It forms part of the MIT Tangible Media Group's Radical Atoms project, which explores human interaction with materials that are reconfigurable by computer.

Transform by Tangible Media Group MIT

"We don't want the furniture to become more important than the motion. We want to make it feel like it's a unified design and they are not separate," said Amit Zoran, one of the product designers on the project.

Transform by Tangible Media Group MIT

Transform changes shape by a series of sensors that detect movement above the surface. However, the table could change according to the emotions of people around it, and create a melody to soothe those around the table, said its creators.

Transform by Tangible Media Group MIT

"Imagine, this is equivalent of the invention of a new medium. Painting, plastic, and computer graphics. It has infinite possibilities," said Ishii.

The project was part of Lexus Design Amazing exhibition, which premiered in Milan last week.