Researchers at the Massachusetts Institutes of Technology (MIT) have created programmable materials that bring otherwise stationary objects to life. Exoskin is a series of membrane-backed, rigid materials that can become broader and more versatile. The changing texture can introduce fluidity and the ability to sense into a variety of products.
By deeply embedding soft materials with more static materials, researchers Basheer Tome and Hiroshi Ishii were able to break down the divide between rigid and soft, and animate and inanimate. This allowed them to design more interfaces physical materials around them, rather than just relying on intangible pixels and their limitations.
The team used Exowheel, an automotive steering wheel, as a tangible example of the designs applications. By incorporating Exoskin, Exowheel is able to transform its surface dynamically to create a customised grip for each individual user. It is also able to adapt the grip during the drive, as the car moves from congested city driving to rougher rural roads.