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Smart Blocks for Virtual-Physical Interaction

Description:

Enhanced interaction between the virtual and physical worlds

 

Inventors

Rahul Mangharam, Matthew O’Kelly, Vincent Pacelli, Matthew Brady http://www.seas.upenn.edu/~rahulm/index.html

 

Problem

Currently, most games and toys consist of either virtual objects or physical objects, with no interaction between the two. A method of connecting the virtual and physical worlds could enhance design, collaboration, and entertainment in new ways. Some existing systems can represent a physical object in a virtual environment by using a RFID tag, but this is a limited solution that cannot represent the actual state or orientation of the object.

 

Solution

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have created a new smart block technology that connects the physical and virtual world. As the blocks are connected together, they can detect their position and orientation, as well as identify which blocks are on top and below them. The data from the blocks is relayed to a virtual representation which changes in real time as the user manipulates the blocks. In addition to merely sensing the presence of another block, putting a certain block in the right position or building a certain shape could trigger events in both the physical and virtual world. The block could light up in the physical world, or unlock an animation in the virtual world, representing a new level of physical-virtual interaction.