Thursday, May 17, 2012

ZeroN from MIT - forget your old mouse.

On more than one occasion we have addressed the issue of user interfaces of the future, something we are working on multiple research centers and technology foresight. Holograms, touch systems and augmented reality systems are some of the technologies we have seen in projects like Holoflector materialize, Vermeer Microsoft Research or Project Glass of Google. In the Tangible Media Group at MIT Media Lab are working on a project called Zeron, impressive with which they are developing a new way to see the man-machine interface interaction that allows us to touch and handle real objects "airborne" to control systems information or simulations, the "tangible interfaces".

What is this project? 
ZeroN is a system that creates a "weightlessness" zone  that is used to handle freely a real object and that their movements are captured for replication or as stimuli to a program or a simulation. Specifically, ZeroN is based on a solenoid that generates a magnetic field controlled by a computer and that make a metall ball remains "in air", which is used by the user as a pointer.

The peculiarity of ZeroN is leaving aside the augmented reality holograms and the system based on real objects and a projection system that is used for drawing paths or to perform a simulation, for example, the shadow cast by the sun on a building (making the sun serving area and placing a plastic or wooden block on the basis of ZeroN to make the time of building).

    ZeroN can remember the movements that followed. The physical movements of people can gather, store and reproduce indefinitely. When a user makes a move on Zeron, the ball floating and continuous motion replays often. With this functionality, ZeroN can be adopted in many applications: animation prototypes, simulations, 3D design, etc.. Much of the control exercised many users with a mouse and a screen can be made tangible and more intuitive.

How does it work? As mentioned, the core of ZeroN is a great magnet, a solenoid, which generates a magnetic field very precise and controlled by a computer (in fact been designed by an MIT researcher, Rehmi Post, the CBA) that in turn is held by a positioning system which makes the solenoid always remains above the metal sphere. To track, Jinha Lee, responsible for the design and construction of Zeron, was based on several infrared 3D cameras, such as Kinect controlled to maintain the position of the ball and place the source of the magnetic field provided above ( These cameras also serve, for example, to capture the movement of the sphere and repeating or autonomously perform movements).

It is worth taking the time to see the demo video and so better understand the potential role Zeron as a sign of a new generation of tangible user interfaces.


  1. Wow!!! this is freaking cool!!! :O