Daniel Leithinger Thesis Defense

July 7, 2015


MIT Media Lab, E14-633


Shape displays render digital content as dynamic physical shapes. They enable multiple users to touch, feel, and deform their surface topology in order to understand information, express ideas, and collaborate. But while these interfaces hold great promise, their application areas are not yet well defined and few specific interaction techniques have been developed for them. In his thesis, Daniel Leithinger analyzes the existing body of work and proposes physical interaction with data at dynamic scale and modality, to help overcome some limitations of current shape display hardware while placing relevant information within reach of the user's physical abilities. 

In computer graphics and data visualization, the ability to scale between a high-level overview and a specific detail and to seamlessly transform the viewport onto a data model is crucial. He adapts this concept to shape displays and proposes interaction at dynamic scale through tangible viewports. In addition to scale, he investigates dynamic modality, through a system that augments a shape display with spatially co-located 3D graphics. Combining physical shape rendering with intangible spatial graphics enables a rich computing experience that neither could provide on it's own. Particularly interesting are interactions based on the ability to rapidly switch between rendering content as a solid object at one instance and intangible floating graphics in the next, or as a hybrid between the two.
To support remote collaboration, he introduces a new approach to telepresence through shared workspaces with the ability to capture and remotely render the physical shapes of people and objects. Based on the concept of shape transmission, he proposes interaction techniques to manipulate remote objects and physical renderings of shared digital content. He investigates how the representation of users’ body parts can be altered to amplify their capabilities for teleoperation and describes the findings of building and testing prototype physical telepresence workspaces. The insights gained from these prototypes result in a set of guidelines to aid the development of future hardware and applications, to bring shape-changing tangible interfaces into the hands of everyday computer users.

Host/Chair: Hiroshi Ishii

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