An Anti-Gravity User Interface

Article written: 17 May , 2012
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015
by

Researcher Jinha Lee at MIT has developed a remarkable way to interact with computers — via a programmable, intelligent and gravity-defying metal ball.

The concept, called “ZeroN”, is demonstrated in the video above. Fascinating!

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Using magnets and computer-controlled motors, ZeroN hovers in mid-air between two control units. Its movements can be pre-programmed or it can react to objects in its environment, and it can apparently “learn” new movements as it is interacted with.

Lee demonstrates how it could be used to control camera positions in 3D applications, and (my favorite) model the motions of planets and stars.

“ZeroN is about liberating materials from the constraints of space and time by blending the physical and digital world,” Lee states on his website.

ZeroN is still in its development stages and obviously needs refining (the 3D camera isn’t much use if the ball is wobbling) but the premise is interesting. I can see something like this being, at the very least, a mesmerizing interactive display for museums, classrooms and multimedia presentations.

Of course, with a little ingenuity a whole world of applications could open up for such a zero-g interface. (I’m sure Tony Stark already has a dozen on pre-order!)

Read more about this on Co.DESIGN (tip of the electromagnetic hat to PopSci.)

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14 Responses

  1. zkank says

    Great article, Jason! One worth keeping an eye on the progress.

    Like you, the first thing I thought of is a 3D orrery. I would be among the first in line to buy one, even if just of the inner planets and moons!

    Related; if anyone wants a decent, interactive orrery screen saver for free:
    http://www.dynamicdiagrams.com/work/orrery/

  2. zkank says

    I also thought of the inevitable military adaptation along the lines of a railgun…

  3. Mohamed abou ahmed says

    Nice toys.When will they find out where it begin and where it end.Sure science have missed out on definition and causes plus reason

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  4. Steve Rollins says

    Great interface concept. Not much good yet at the rate it can sample at from what I saw there but this really is too good of an interface system _not_ to become prevalent when the processing power (or a well-funded development team) catches up.

  5. I think maybe this level of control is the big deal, not the levitation(suspension) itself.

  6. Mind blowing concept. A simple use of it is in simulating real life computer controlled games where the objects levitate and learn new patterns.

  7. this is not an anti-gravity device

  8. jjbreen says

    Andrei, I have to agree, NOT an Anti-Gravity device at all. I was a bit surprised that UT is going down the path of “False Name Grabbers”. But as has been pointed out in the past, UT is finding actual news harder and harder to find, so they’ve started to follow the Tabloid News Style Headliners.

    Now for the device. This is very cool, I see its potential from Medical – Games – Military – Space – Engineering – 3D Graphics – Movie Productions … This is going to be fun to see it move forward! Very FUN!!

  9. Arslan Sikandar says

    why my mind is not getting out of the false alarm “anti-gravity”? Why couldn’t you just use the word “levitate” ?

  10. andrew g says

    I think you’re being a bit unfair. This counteracts or works against the effect of gravity, therefore is anti-gravity. What it does not do is eliminate gravity. Gravity is still there but is overcome.

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