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Thumbles move along a tabletop projection and can be moved to interact with a software application.

Interaction media design and technology company Patten Studio has created a robotic table user interface platform called Thumbles, which are basically small robots that represent a new way for users to interact with software applications.

The tiny robots move around on a tabletop projection and users can grab and move the robots to interact with a piece of software. The computer can also move the robots around in response. The robots are fitted with omniwheels that allow them to easily move in any direction without the need to make turns.

Designer James Patten, founder and principal of Patten Studio, said,

My inspiration was that I wanted to make computers more social, playful and flexible. Our bodies and minds are so well suited to interacting with physical objects. If we can use these objects to represent information inside a computer, so many new possibilities are created.

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Thumbles move and rearrange themselves on the table surface to fit the user’s needs. For example, they can be used in editing images and videos. The small robots can become dials and knobs to adjust sound and colors. The robots can be used to play arcade games and even help scientists in visualizing compounds in their molecular form. Another application demonstrated by the studio is emergency response control and coordination. The robots can move around like vehicles on a virtual map.

Thumbles were designed to show how people and computers can work together to develop solutions to various problems.

The clip below shows a demo of how the tiny robots work.

Thumbles // Patten Studio

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