Autonomous swarming blocks basis for display concept

Summary:Designer Julia Tsao presented a seemingly outlandish yet provocative idea for a futuristic display at this week's Emerging Communications conference. The project, called Curious Displays, does away with fixed form factor convention and is instead made up of hundreds of half inch autonomous blocks programmed with swarm intelligence.

Designer Julia Tsao presented an outlandish yet provocative idea for a futuristic display at this week's Emerging Communications conference.

The project, called Curious Displays, does away with fixed form factor convention and is instead made up of hundreds of half inch autonomous blocks programmed with swarm intelligence.

Tsao said that she set out to answer the question: What is next after the flat screen? Her response led to a novel idea that rolls into one virtual pet, augmented reality, and swarm robotics.

Credit: James Duncan Davidson

Credit: James Duncan Davidson

The system is comprised of blocks that move across any physical surface and operate independently of one another, but are aware of the position and role relative to the rest of the system.

That makes it is very fluid in the sense that you can be watching Finding Nemo on one wall, and then the blocks can transition to another location in the room and arrange themselves in a manner to communicate time and location specific information, such as a reminder to water your plant (see video below).

From Tsao's site: "With this awareness, the blocks are able to coordinate with the other blocks to reconfigure their positioning to form larger display surfaces and forms depending on purpose and function. In this way, the blocks become a physical embodiment of digital media, and act as a vehicle for the physical manifestation of what typically exists only in the virtual space of the screen."

Given the operational challenges that Tsao acknowledges (in case the display bots run amok, there's an accompanying remote control with a big red kill button), Curious Displays may never materialize, but this kind of ingenuity could pave the way for related iterations that also combine the technologies used.

Curious Displays from Julia Tsao on Vimeo.

Topics: Servers

About

Christopher Jablonski is a freelance technology writer. Previously, he held research analyst positions in the IT industry and was the manager of marketing editorial at CBS Interactive. He's been contributing to ZDNet since 2003. Christopher received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at U... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.