Imagine a world where the shapes of all objects around you would be able to change on the fly. Envision a future where nanotechnology and morphing become ubiquitous and blend in with the physical environment of the everyday. One day society will look back on our crude, static appliances and wonder how we survived without programmable matter catering to our needs.

It is the goal of designer Jeffrey Braun to explore how to design for a new interaction paradigm that is proposed as ‘Morphing Interaction’, as conducted at the Next Nature lab. When the digital merges with the physical world, our perceptions of space, time and the physical become a play with reality. As morphological properties do not impose specific forms or interactions for a design, it allows for an abundance of functionalities. The freedom of form that will be inherent to these products might not inform the user about the physical actions. Meaningful actions, forms and states will need to be created, where a harmony between human physicality, interface and physical representation is needed.

As history learns, major innovations in technology bring forth new types of products with new interaction styles. Be it hand-crafted products and tools, more complex ones with mechanisms, towards electrical and the present day electronic products. The virtue in nanotechnology consists in finding the golden mean that avoids both overly confident decisions to proceed and overly fearful restraint. That does not give a list of boxes to check off, but can promote a virtuous ethos in which research and development serves and protects people and the environment.

Jeffrey demonstrates his morphing interaction concept

The context, to design for the experience of using cutlery, was chosen to enter the discussion in critical dialogue in which rapidly increasing development in nanotechnology gives rise to an expectation that cannot be fulfilled yet, while the real challenge is to envision a future where nanotechnology and morphing objects become ubiquitous and have to blend in with the physical environment of the everyday. The design space needed to be a specific accepted product or tool used every day, in order to put people in control of morphing interaction. ‘New’ technology will be introduced through ‘old’ familiar things.

Physical prototypes of intermediate stages between morphing

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