MIT Media Lab develops programmable 3D printed hair for variety of applications
3D printing has paved way for new innovations, which were limited to sci-fi movies only. Recently, MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group showcased their 3D-printed innovation at the CHI 2016 for human-man computer interaction in San Joes. The Lab developed soft plastic hair that mimics real hair in nature. The artificial hair, developed under Project Cilllia, can be programmed to perform defined functions. It means advent of finger swipe sensors and passive actuators for many applications. The development has opened up new possibilities for personal fabrication, 3D printing and most importantly human-computer interaction.
Using software, the team fabricated hair-like structures at a 50-micron resolution on both flat and curved surfaces. The software allowed the team to define angle, density, height, and thickness of the hair.
So far, team has created several toys like a furry bunny with a LED. When someone pats the bunny, the hair changes colors. So, now it’s possible to have a wig or ear-rings that could respond in pre-programmed ways to external stimuli. The team also built a tiny ballet dancer with new 3D printed hair on its feet. The toy was able to rotate around a custom speaker-dancing table at defined velocity that depended on the hair angle. The team demonstrated how hair could be programmed to form blocks that could be stuck together temporarily using glue-like bonds.
The team further demonstrated the capability of their innovation through a windmill made of 3D printed hair. The windmill was attached to a cellphone and it started spinning when the phone vibrated, indicating a call or message. No doubt, the innovation has relevance for people suffering from cancer or hair-loss.