Mind & Matter


Liquid Interface: Blob Motility

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Credit: Blob Motility, Wakita Laboratory, Keio University

In an interview I conducted with Akira Wakita, a researcher of interactive textiles with a PhD in computer-aided design from Japan's Keio University, Wakita made the case for making stronger connections between the analog and digital realms. The creator of programmable color-shifting fabrics and shape-changing textiles, Wakita stated that "we must solve the problem of bridging physical and virtual content," adding that "in the near future, we will develop an interface that breaks the wall between humanity and technology."


The latest outcome of his efforts is a project entitled "Blob Motility." Based on a magnetic liquid that Wakita has coined "pBlob," the interface is an actuated shape display that makes use of a fluid, programmable matter. The liquid display is manipulated by hardware made of electromagnets and their control circuits, and provides newfound abilities to govern the unpredictable movements of fluids. According to Wakita, the device "enables us to experience organic shape changes in real space, like a metaball in the CG world."


If virtual environments have incessantly mimicked real ones, Blob Motility marks an intriguing reversal in which reality begins to emulate virtual space.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.