Shape-shifting interfaces, which could be deployed to create dynamic furniture, structures or VR environments, have great potential; however, creating them is often quite difficult. To simplify things, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have developed “LiftTiles,” modular blocks that raise to the desired height (between 15 and 150 centimeters) via air pressure and then collapse under spring force when needed.
Each pneumatic tile costs under $10 USD, weighs only 10kg each, and supports up to 10kg of weight. To demonstrate their design, the team used solenoid valves to inflate blocks and servo motors to open release valves that allow the blocks deflate and compress.
The system is based on an Arduino Mega board, along with an SR300 depth camera to measure the height of each section and client software running on a control computer.
More details can be found in the project’s research paper.