The Materiable is built from motor-driven blocks called "pixels" that respond to touch and give haptic feedback in return (the colors come from an overhead projector). Driven by basic physics simulations, the blocks (arrayed in groups of 24x24) can move on their own to mimic liquids and solid materials with different properties, much like InForm. What's new is that user can now push the blocks with any part of their bodies, and the blocks push back with varying speed and force, depending on the material being simulated. With water, for example, the level of touch is light, and for foam, it's firmer. The team sees it as a powerful educational too.
"The path of scientific investigation in any field of knowledge records a response to two opposing pulls. On the one side, a powerful attraction is exerted by "good problems"—questions whose answers would represent fundamental advances in theory or would provide the basis for important applications. On the other side, strong pulls are exerted by "good techniques"—tools of observation and analysis that have proved to be incisive and reliable. The fortunate periods in a science are those in which these two pulls do not paralyze inquiry by their opposition but cooperate to draw research into fruitful channels."Science 22 December 1961: Vol. 134 no. 3495 pp. 2011-2017
Last week, Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and other cutting-edge companies, took a surprising question at the Code Conference, a technology event in California. What, a man in the audience asked, did Musk make of the idea that we are living not in the real world, but in an elaborate computer simulation? Musk exhibited a surprising familiarity with this concept. "I've had so many simulation discussions it's crazy," Musk said. Citing the speed with which video games are improving, he suggested that the development of simulations "indistinguishable from reality" was inevitable.