Perfect RedLeonardo Amerigo Bonanni, Hiroshi Ishii, Austin Lee, Paula Aguilera, and Jonathan Williams / 2012
In 2008 the Tangible Media Group began to explore Radical Atoms through a storyboard exercise that asked us to imagine: What interactions are possible with a new matter capable of changing form dynamically?
Perfect Red represents one such possible substance: a clay-like material preprogrammed to have many of the features of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software. Perfect Red is a fictional material that can be sculpted like clay—with hands and hand tools—and responds according to rules inspired by CAD operations, including snapping to primary geometries, Boolean operations, and parametric design. When Perfect Red is rolled into a ball, it snaps into the shape of a perfect sphere (primary solids). When two pieces are joined, Perfect Red adds the shapes to each other (Boolean addition). Perfect Red also has other behaviors inspired by parametric design tools: If you split a piece in two even halves, then the operations performed on one part are mirrored in the other. And much like CAD software, Perfect Red can perform detailed operations using splines projected on the surface of solids. To cut an object in half, for example, all that’s needed is to draw a line along the cut and tap it with a knife. Splines and parametric behaviors can also be carried out: If you want to drill 10 holes, you simply draw 10 dots and stick a pin into one of them.
The idea of snapping to primary geometries such as sphere, cylinder, and cube was inspired by shape-memory alloys. We extended this notion of “shape memory” to the 3-D primary forms that can be preprogrammed into the material. Users can conform the constraints of primary volumes by approximating them and letting them snap into the closest primary shapes.
Perfect Red is imagined as one of a number of new materials imbued with a complex set of responsive behaviors. The idea was intended to demonstrate the richness of Radical Atoms in how they can combine intuition and improvisation inherent to physical prototyping with the parametric operation of computer-aided design tools. Like software, Perfect Red is only one of a number of new materials that afford unique interactions—what other materials can you imagine?