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Jun 02, 2004 8:58 am Sony Comes Up With Pliable Knob!
Rajendran Dandapani
Shape-Shifting Remakes Interfaces

Technology Research News May 26, 2004

Felix the Cat of cartoon fame carried a magic bag that he transformed into anything he needed, from a car to an airplane to a parachute. Researchers at Sony Corporation are bringing the notion of transformability to user interface devices with a control knob that the user can reshape to change its function.

The researchers' Haptic Chameleon is a video control knob that a user can switch to round, rectangular and semicircle shapes that have different functions and different force feedback effects.

The prototype knob consists of two semicircles divided by rectangle. The user can depress one of the semicircles to change the knob shape to a semicircle, or both semicircles to change the knob to a rectangle.

The round shape, which moves in fine-grained increments, allows a user to navigate a video frame-by-frame. The rectangular shape, which has coarser increments, allows the user to navigate scene-by-scene. The semicircle, which symbolizes happy or sad scenes through its resemblance to a smile or frown, allows the user to move between scenes of a certain type.

The combination of tangible shapes that correspond to functions and force feedback allows the user to create a mental match between the shape of the device and the function or mode of operation associated with it.

Eventually devices based on the technology could change shape to mimic real-world objects, mimic interface devices like joysticks, or form symbols like a square that represent functions like stopping video.

The researchers' presented the research at the Computer Human Interaction (CHI) 2004 conference in Vienna, April 24 to 29.

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