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Here’s a cool project by Ivan Poupyrev, an interactive 3D surface called Lumen. Unlike a regular 3D display, which uses optical tricks to make the image appear to extend out from the screen, in this display the pixels actually move.

I’ve been wanting to make something like this for a long time, but couldn’t come up with a viable actuator to move the pixels. Solenoids would draw way too much current, and a robotic arm to push each one in turn would be too slow. Ivan’s solution, though, seems just right. Each pixel is activated by a wire made of shape memory alloy, which deforms when heated and returns to it’s original shape when cool. Aha!



  1. Elemental LED staff says:

    And is the light source the individual wires? Are they tied together, so that what you have is a 3-D LED display?

    1. Matt Mets says:

      The LEDs and display height are controlled independently, so you each LED has an intensity and a height control.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I really liked this idea. It can be used to make “Dynamically Changeable Physical Buttons on a Visual Display” like in this link:

  3. Jack says:

    I can just imagine that, say, ten years from now, people will look back on this as the macintosh se/30 of digital displays. It kind of looks like one, too! :-)