Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 161–173 | Cite as

Shape-changing interfaces

  • Marcelo Coelho
  • Jamie Zigelbaum
Original Article


The design of physical interfaces has been constrained by the relative akinesis of the material world. Current advances in materials science promise to change this. In this paper, we present a foundation for the design of shape-changing surfaces in human–computer interaction. We provide a survey of shape-changing materials and their primary dynamic properties, define the concept of soft mechanics within an HCI context, and describe a soft mechanical alphabet that provides the kinetic foundation for the design of four design probes: Surflex, SpeakCup, Sprout I/O, and Shutters. These probes explore how individual soft mechanical elements can be combined to create large-scale transformable surfaces, which can alter their topology, texture, and permeability. We conclude by providing application themes for shape-changing materials in HCI and directions for future work.


Form transformation Shape change Kinetic Morph Tangible interface Transitive materials Shape memory alloy TUI SMA 



We would like to thank everybody who in some way or another helped with this work. Specifically, we would like to acknowledge the work of Analisa Russo, Elly Jessop, Josh Kopin, Katie Puckett, and Najiyah Edun in helping physically build the prototypes described here; Pattie Maes for the intellectual support and inspiration; the Fluid Interfaces Group at the MIT Media Lab for the innumerous suggestions on how to improve this work; and finally Joanna Berzowska, Kent Larson, Mette Thomsen, and Steve Helsing for all of their initial suggestions, collaborations, and providing some of the original sources of inspiration for this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MIT Media LabCambridgeUSA

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