M.S. Thesis Presentation by Stephen A. Askins
Wednesday, July 2, 2003

(Dr. Wayne Book, advisor)

"Modeling and Control of Digital Clay"


Digital Clay seeks to provide an entirely new means of communicating three dimensional shape data between a human and a computer. It presents the user with a computer-controlled, continuously reconfigurable surface. The user will not only be allowed to feel the shape presented to him with hands, but he will be able to shape it as if it were a malleable substance, with the shape information being transferred instantaneously to the computer’s matching model of the surface. Additionally, the device has the potential to go beyond simply responding passively to user forces, but to interpret in some capacity the intent of the user, and try to adapt its surface accordingly. A wide variety of application areas can be foreseen for a device of these capabilities. Although at this stage there is no concrete design for the Digital Clay device, it is to include a large number of fluidic actuators, and will rely on dedicated MEMS valves to control these actuators.

The goal of this thesis is to create a working simulation of a possible architecture of this device to answer questions about how a device with such a large number of degrees of freedom can be controlled. A potential design is described and modeled. The simulation includes human interaction via the force-response model for a single fingertip. A specific method of tracking a user’s finger via a moving local surface deformation is selected. Different implementations of this tracking method are described and compared. These results are used to draw conclusions about a broader range of control scenarios for Digital Clay.