The Hybrid Artisans: A Case Study in Smart Tools

Amit Zoran, Roy Shilkrot, Suranga Nanayakkara, Joseph Paradiso


We present an approach to combining digital fabrication and craft, demonstrating a hybrid interaction paradigm where human and machine work in synergy. The FreeD is a hand-held digital milling device, monitored by a computer while preserving the makers freedom to manipulate the work in many creative ways. Relying on a pre-designed 3D model, the computer gets into action only when the milling bit risks the objects integrity, preventing damage by slowing down the spindle speed, while the rest of the time it allows complete gestural freedom. We present the technology and explore several interaction methodologies for carving. In addition, we present a user study that reveals how synergetic cooperation between human and machine preserves the expressiveness of manual practice. This quality of the hybrid territory evolves into design personalization. We conclude on the creative potential of open-ended procedures within this hybrid interactive territory of manual smart tools and devices.

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