ZeroN: Mid-Air Tangible Interaction Enabled by Computer Controlled Magnetic Levitation

Lee, J. "ZeroN: Mid-Air Tangible Interaction Enabled by Computer Controlled Magnetic Levitation"


This thesis presents a concept of mid-air tangible interaction and a system called ZeroN that was developed to enable this interaction. Through this research, I extend the tabletop tangible interaction modalities which have been confined to 2D surfaces into 3D space above the surface. Users are invited to place and move a levitated object in the mid-air space, which is analogous to placing objects on 2D surfaces. For example, users can place a physical object that represents the sun above physical objects to cast digital shadows, or place a planet that will start revolving based on simulated physical conditions.

To achieve these interaction scenarios, we developed ZeroN, a new tangible interface element that can be levitated and moved freely by computer in a three dimensional space. In doing so, ZeroN serves as a tangible representation of a 3D coordinate of the virtual world through which users can see, feel, and control computation. Our technological development includes a magnetic and mechanical control system that can levitate and actuate a permanent magnet in 3D space. This is combined with an optical tracking and display system that projects images on the levitating object. In this thesis, I present interaction techniques and applications developed in the context of this system. Finally, I discuss initial observations and implications, and outline future development and challenges.

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