Animastage - Easy Physical Animation
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Saturday, 17 June 2017

Animating physical objects can be done by fitting them with a variety of actuators, but a custom rig takes time and effort. Now MIT have a use for their 3D output device, inForm. Using it you can animate a puppet, sculpture or any creative art work you care to think up.

As we reported back in 2013, the MIT Tangible Media Group invented a 3D moving table built of blocks called inForm. Each block is actuated by a wire under computer control and can be raised and lowered under program control. Initial uses for the device were ingenious,but after a few good ideas probably proved to be limited to moving objects and displaying 3D data. Now inForm is back with a new application - animation.

The idea is very simple, connect different parts of an object to different blocks and it will move when the blocks are moved. To see what this means take a look at the video:



The assumption is that artists who don't really know much about programming will be able to understand the way the blocks can be used to create movement. In fact it is hoped that they will understand it so well that creativity will cut in and produce things that the inventors never considered. There is, however, the problem of programming the blocks. 

To this end the team has implemented easy ways of showing the blocks how to move. The user can simply grab hold of a pin and move it and the software will repeat the action. Variations on this idea are being tried out, including one where you push a pin down for  another to move up and a puppetry gesture system. The puppetry system is the most ambitious in that it makes use of air gestures detected by a LEAP Motion system, that work as if the fingers were connected to the model by strings. After setting up the animation the user can also set up the stage as a background.


It will be interesting to see if anything comes of it. Of course, it wouldn't be too hard to build your own using some blocks and either linear actuators or servos.




More Information


AnimaStage: Hands-on Animated Craft on Pin-based Shape Displays (pdf)

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 17 June 2017 )