Siftables: manipulating bits with your hands…Saturday, July 11th, 2009 by Roberto Saracco
Take a look at this video:
It is about interactive building blocks invented by David Merrill, a Media Lab MIT researcher. Siftables, this is the name of the blocks, are small square tokens with a video screen on one of the faces and a sensing capabilities to recognize and talk to other Siftables nearby. Inside each token there is an accelerometer to measure movements and inclination. Based on this data and on the vicinity of other Siftables complex behaviour can emerge.
It is a good example of an ecosystem where each Siftable is a player and the type of interactions are dictated by the software embedded in each one. This software is characterising each token, one may be a container of colour, another of music, another of information. As an example you can have tokens displaying a number, one displaying an arithmetic operation and another an equal sign. By combining them and placing an empty token by the equal sign you can see the result of the operation.
The amazing thing is to look at the complex behaviour that can emerge from very simple tokens juxtapposed one another.
This is not jus interesting from the point of view of modelling ecosystems, it is also interesting because it gives a glimpse on what it means to have interacting objects all around us and how easy it is to move seamlessly from atoms to bits.
In the future get ready to experience this in many environments, in your home and office to start with.