A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Laboratory has developed an interface that allows you to program the movements of small water droplets on a surface.
The project gained the name of “calm interface”. The water droplets are on a surface lined with low-friction material, which is attached to copper wires that emit pulses of electricity at the behest of scientists.
This system is connected to a computer, where researchers control the pulses of electricity and, consequently, the movements and shapes of the water droplets that remain on the hydrophobic surface.
Thus, it is possible to program specific movements for each drop, which move according to a coordinated choreography on the computer. The control over the drops is so precise that it even gives one drop in the other and then separates them again.
To Engadget, the project leader, Udayan Umapathi, explained how this type of interface can be used in a practical way. The main application would be artistic, like an installation in which the droplets move to the rhythm of a song, for example.
Another possible application would be games. Umapathi demonstrated a performance of programmable drops that works as a “Pac-Man”. By shaking a board, the user controls the movement of a drop, whose goal is to “eat” other droplets that move autonomously.
Finally, a more conceptual application is demonstrated by Umapathi in the form of a text message that, sent from a cell phone, appears to the recipient in a misty mirror of a bathroom, thanks to the programming applied on the droplets of water that remain on the glass .
The idea behind all this, according to Umapathi, is to replace the relationship of people with electronic screens by a relationship with materials found in nature. There is no prediction as to when this technology will be employed in products available in the market.