By David Ponce
Right at the very edge of the work being done on human-machine interaction is one congenial looking Jinha Lee, from the Tangible Media Group of the MIT Media Lab. In collaboration with Rehmi Post and Hiroshi Ishii, Jinha has created the ZeroN, a device that lets computers and people interact through the use of a fascinating floating metal ball. Yeah, the ball just floats, it levitates, and it looks pretty awesome in the process. But it’s not just about the looks. The ZeroN serves as both an input and output device. As an input, you just touch the ball and move it. Cameras located all around track its position, which then is recorded in digital 3D space within the program. One application for this would be to reposition “the sun” above physical objects to cast digital shadows in a specially constructed program.
As an output, the ZeroN is able to move the ball by itself, either reproducing the path you initially created or some other pre-programmed itinerary. One example application of this would be to demonstrate the orbit of a planet around some mass.
The magic is created with the use of a robotic arm tipped with a sophisticated magnet. This is housed away from view in a container above the ball, and every time you move it, the arm repositions and re-calibrates itself, keeping the ball afloat. And granted, the applications listed above don’t sound ground breaking. But keep in mind that should this tech take off, you’re really just looking at an early prototype that has the potential to evolve into something far more useful. We’re not sure what just yet, but if watching the video doesn’t convince you of this, you’re just not made from the same geek molecules we are.