Skip to Content
MIT News: 77 Mass Ave

3D-printed materials that sense your actions

Input devices created this way could be easily tailored to individual needs.

October 26, 2021
prototype
Courtesy of the Researchers

Interactive input devices like joysticks or handheld controllers could be simple to produce with a new technique for 3D-printing mechanisms that detect how force is being applied to an object. 

Researchers in the lab of Stefanie Mueller, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, integrated electrodes into structures made from metamaterials, which consist of a grid of repeating cells that may stretch or compress under force. This made it possible to create “conductive shear cells”—flexible cells with two walls made from nonconductive filament and two conductive walls that function as electrodes.

When a user handles the material, the distance and overlapping area between the opposing electrodes changes. Those changes can be used to calculate the magnitude and direction of the applied forces, as well as rotation and acceleration. The technique offers a way to customize controllers and other mechanisms to meet someone’s individual needs. 

“This will enable new intelligent environments in which our objects can sense each interaction with them,” Mueller says. “For instance, a chair or couch made from our smart material could detect the user’s body when the user sits on it and either use it to query particular functions (such as turning on the light or TV) or to collect data for later analysis (such as detecting and correcting body posture).

Keep Reading

Most Popular

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

How do strong muscles keep your brain healthy?

There’s a robust molecular language being spoken between your muscles and your brain.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.