Radical AtomsLeonardo Bonanni, Hiroshi Ishii and Tangible Media Group / 2012

Radical Atoms

“Radical Atoms” is our vision of human interaction with future dynamic materials that are computationally reconfigurable.

“Radical Atoms” was created to overcome the fundamental limitations of its precursor, the “Tangible Bits” vision. Tangible Bits - the physical embodiment of digital information and computation - was constrained by the rigidity of “atoms” in comparison with the fluidity of bits. This makes it difficult to represent fluid digital information in traditionally rigid physical objects, and inhibits dynamic tangible interfaces from being able to control or represent computational inputs and outputs.

In order to augment the vocabulary of Tangible User Interfaces or TUIs, we use dynamic representations such as co-located projections or “digital shadows”. However the physical objects on the tabletop stay static and rigid. To overcome these limitations, we began to experiment with a variety of actuated and kinetic tangibles, which can transform their physical positions or shapes as an additional output modality beyond the traditional manual input mode of TUI’s.

Our vision of “Radical Atoms” is based on hypothetical, extremely malleable and reconfigurable materials that can be described by real-time digital models so that dynamic changes in digital information can be reflected by a dynamic change in physical state and vice-versa. Bidirectional synchronization is key to making Radical Atoms a tangible but dynamic representation & control of digital information, and enabling new forms of Human Computer Interaction.

We are developing our vision of interactions with Radical Atoms which do not exist today, but may be invented in next 100 years by atom hackers (material scientists, self-organizing nano-robot engineers, etc.) and speculate new interaction techniques and applications which would be enabled by the Radical Atoms.

Radical Atoms is a new vision-driven design research on interactions with Dynamic Physical Material that can
1) conform to structural constraints,
2) transform structure & behavior, and
3) inform new abilities.

We have first presented this post-Tangible Bits vision at CHI 2009 panel on April 9, 2009 in Boston, and then published a full paper in ACM Interactions magazine in January 2012.

Perfect Red from Tangible Media Group on Vimeo.