Fluid Assembly Furniture from Self-Assembly Lab, MIT on Vimeo.

This week, we bring you the latest from MIT wunderkind Skylar Tibbits, gesture-driven CAD, super-strong snail teeth, and more.

  • Skylar Tibbits’ Self Assembly Lab at MIT has a new project—Fluid Assembly Furniture—that’s every bit of what its name suggests. In the video above, six components self-configure into a chair, with a 5.9-inch-square footprint, when dropped into a tub of water. The process takes seven hours, as magnets integrated in the parts and water currents work together to assemble the chair into its final form. [Wired]

  • Handy Potter wants to make CAD hands-free. And don’t let the tongue-in-cheek name fool you: Using gesture-detection software, researchers at Purdue University are circumventing the limitations of conventional CAD tools that use cameras and complex algorithms to track depth. The technology (shown below) is now being commercialized by Cupertino, Calif.–based 3D modeling company ZeroUI. [Phys.org]
  • Ceramics are generally known to be brittle and unsuitable for structural applications. Caltech materials science and mechanics professor and researcher Julia Greer is aiming to change that with her research into large-scale nanostructures and their applications in materials such as structural composites, as well as battery longevity and ultra-lightweight insulation. [MIT Technology Review]

  • Conceived after floods decimated coastal Pakistan in 2010, the Earth Home Project seeks to use local materials, labor, and building techniques to reconstruct homes (below). Led by a team of architects, designers, engineers, and other social entrepreneurs around the world, the project covers the cost of materials, a foundation, and windows and doors while educating local craftsmen in sustainable and resilient construction methods. [Inhabitat]

A residence constructed by the Earth Home Project in Pakistan.
Earth Home Project A residence constructed by the Earth Home Project in Pakistan.

  • Though not yet available at a scale to clad or frame your projects, a new material has been ranked as the world’s strongest—and it comes from a kind of snail. The Limpet is defined by a conical shell that conceals a tongue lined with millimeter-scale teeth, which are made of a mineral-protein composite and used by the snail to remove food from rocks. In an interview with BBC, the scientists responsible for the discovery equated the newfound material's strength to “a strand of spaghetti holding up 3,000 half-kilogram bags [or 3,307-pounds worth] of sugar.” [BBC]