Shape-Shifting Wall Morphs With Touchscreen Gestures


Motion-sensing technology lets you change the shape of Breathing Wall 2.0 with a swipe, tap or click.

Vashti Hallissey
  • 30 june 2014

Imagine you could control your physical environment in the same way that you control a smartphone, swiping, clicking and dragging to alter what you see. That’s what University of Southern California PHD student Behnaz Farahi has created in her latest project Breathing Wall 2.0. It’s a kinetic wall that changes shape in response to gestures you would normally make on a mobile.

Behnaz designed this interactive space to explore the possibility of creating an empathetic relationship between people and their environment.

“Mobile devices already use techniques based on touch-and gesture-based languages – swiping, clicking, dragging and so on – as a natural, intuitive mechanism of control. But can these techniques be used to control entire environments?” she explains in her mission statement.

Breathing Wall 2.0 consists of PVC pipes inside a wooden frame and covered in a kind of skin of stretchable fabric. The wall is connected to a Leap Motion, a motion-sensing computer game controller that recognizes certain hand gestures such as swiping, clicking and tapping. This information is passed onto an Arduino micro-controller, which changes the position of the pipes in response. Behnaz used real time projection mapping on the fabric to emphasize the wall’s surface topography.

The combined effect of a motion-controlled structure, a fabric that stretches and shrinks as it changes shape and the shadows across its surface is of a wall that has a life of its own. Even if you understand the technology behind it, there’s a magical quality to a space that can sense your presence and respond to your every move.

Behnaz believes that we will be able to communicate intuitively with the living environments of the future.

“The living environment of future will have an understanding of its users and respond accordingly with dynamic interactive architecture. The intermediary mechanism between user and the environment would have disappeared to the background,” she told PSFK.

She also imagines that mind-controlled environments could be a possibility, removing the need for gestures and responding directly to our thoughts.

“I think the interaction with physical environment could be minimized to a direct interface. To the point that the distance between mind/body of the user with the surrounding environment would be blurred, to the point that you can’t discuss where the body ends and the environment starts,” she told us.

There are many dynamic architects who, like Behnaz, are challenging our preconceived ideas of built environments as immutable.

Earlier this year, Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger created a ‘breathing wall’ exhibited at the Venice Biennale that creates “peaks and valleys” through mechanical undulation. Thibault Sld, a Canadian interactive objects designer, created a wall installation that flutters at the sight of passersby. And Alice Labourel from Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture created a concept for a ballet school that would come alive based on the movement taking place inside of it.

As the Responsive Architecture trend takes off, the idea of buildings as solid and static is on its way out. Technology is being used to create shape-shifting spaces that can respond to our bodies and minds.

You can find out more about Responsive Architecture here.

Breathing Wall 2.0

[h/t] Fast Co.Exist


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