Touch responsive 3D printed learning aids

Matt Nupen
May 13, 2017 · 2 min read

This week I discovered a new method to turn almost any object into a touch sensitive surface. It’s a method called Electrick and developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. What makes this so significant is that this method can be applied to almost any object, including 3D printed models you already have.

“It (3D printing) embodies the 3D form, but rarely the interactivity of the end product. With Electrick, 3D printed artifacts can be made touch sensitive.” — Video about Electrick, watch it all below.

RIGHT!? mind blown! I’ve been playing around with microcontrollers and simple touch sensitive pads like those with the Adafruit Circuit Playground and the MakeyMakey, but those are simple on/off touch pads. Having the ability to know WHERE a user is touching an object and track motions/gestures opens up so many possibilities. It’s worth mentioning Disney’s Touche touch sensing technology as it allows for more advanced touch sensing with inexpensive microcontrollers like the Arduino. The Touche lets you identify the type of touch while Electrick tells you where.

Using Electrick to Enhance Learning

The Diagram Center is creating a set of standards and a library of 3D printable learning aids. With Electrick, the learning aid can react based on where and how the user is touching the object. The name of a location could be spoken, lights and motors could be activated to change it’s appearance, etc. Each learning aid could also be programmed with multiple sets of information. One map of the United States can be used to learn geographic regions, states, and population density to name a few. Here are a few static 3D models that could enhanced with Electrick.

The max, min, slope, and equation of the above graphs could be spoken based on where the user touches the graph. —
This might be the same model used in the above Electrick video. The states aren’t visible on the model, but the user can learn and test their knowledge by touching the different locations. —
Molecule bonding kits could tell the user what type of molecule they have created or the types of sub atomic particle or bond they are touching. —
Matt Nupen

Written by

Teacher and @InsertLearning co-founder. Working to improve #STEM and #specialeducation for my kids.

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