inFORM: MIT’s Morphing Table

inFORM table

Have you ever wished your dinner table could pass the salt? Advancements at MIT may soon make this a reality — although it might spill the salt everywhere. Enter the inFORM: Dynamic Physical Affordances and Constraints through Shape and Object Actuation.

While the MIT paper doesn’t go into much detail of the hardware itself, there are a few juicy tidbits that explain how it works. There are 900 individually actuated white polystyrene pins that make up the surface, in an array of 30 x 30 pixels. An overhead projector provides visual guidance of the system. Each pin can actuate 100mm, exerting a force of up to 1.08 Newtons each. To achieve the actuation, push-pull rods are utilized to maximize the dense pin arrangement as seen, making the display independent of the size of the actuators. The actuation is achieved by motorized slide potentiometers grouped in sets of 6 using custom PCBs that are driven by ATMega2560s — this allows for an excellent method of PID feedback right off the actuators themselves. There is an excellent image of the entire system on page 8 of the paper that shows both the scale and complexity of the build. Sadly it does not look like something that could be easily built at home, but hey, we’d love for someone to prove us wrong!

Stick around after the break to see this fascinating piece of technology in action. The video has been posted by a random Russian YouTube account, and we couldn’t find the original source for it — so if you can, let us know in the comments!

[Thanks Frederik!]


  1. XOIIO says:

    that is awesome

  2. netbeard says:

    I want one!

  3. skabdude says:

    It’s only a matter of time until this technology gets used to make fully dynamic molds for home manufacturing. If you used this table with a simple vacuum and some hot plastic, imagine what you could make. Granted the resolution isn’t great, yet.

  4. Chris Tree says:

    Take my money

    • Bob says:

      A motorized slide-pot usually costs somewhere between $20 and $30. There’s 900 of them. That would be a LOT of your money!

      This is still in the realm of a “media-lab only” hack. Some hacks that are practical in the MIT funhouse are madness anywhere else.

  5. andarb says:

    Reminds me of the graphic style of the city display in the first X-Men movie, I think.

  6. die_matte says:

    Looks a bit like the WaveHandler made by Festo:

  7. Nicholas says:

    Looks as though they intend on using it as a dynamic 3D projection surface.

  8. Natalie says:

    a large scale dot matrix printer perhaps?

  9. Joejoedancer says:

    or this stuff with a shit ton of little magnets and h bridges below it.

  10. Mental2k says:

    Took me a while to realize it seems to be 3D imaging whatever is to the right of the surface and translating that to the surface. Mentalness.

  11. Frank Johnson says:

    Is there some sort of school that you are required to go to if you want to post a video to youtube?
    I am thinking everybody else knows about this school and has gone to it to learn about how never, EVER keeping the camera still or in focus, and to make jerky motions as often as possible.
    God forbid somebody actually have their eyes focus on the subject of the video for more than 1/739,000,238,188,182th of a second.
    Why didn’t you just set up the came a few feet back and hold it back with all of this activity in the frame?
    I don’t want to be overly critical at the advent of these genius students creating such a ground breaking technology as this (everybody knows we all need to be able to remotely roll balls around on a table), however, and I say this with all due respect, you guys are morons.

  12. Sven says:

    900 rods capable of lifting 100g…

    Quick, get a small pet, or borrow someone’s 4 year old child and a pair of fitting clown shoes!

  13. Hirudinea says:

    I’ed like this as a floor in my house, need new furniture just reconfigure the floor.

  14. Mike says:

    Wickedly cool. This could be used to transport all kinds of objects. Next up: virtual basketball pogo stick teams. The Blazers will never have a chance.

  15. anon says:
  16. DosX says:

    Yeah I could see this on a table displaying maps of terrains or some other stuff……moving objects around….Meh! Displaying objects yeah that seems like less of a waste. Now just get it to change colours as well and that should do it

  17. Harvie.CZ says:

    I think that this can be used as Braile terminal or similar tactile user interface for blind people…

  18. anon says:

    Looks a bit like the table Yashida lies on in The Wolverine.

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