Shilkrot melds personal style and technique with computerized control systems


January 3, 2014

It’s often easy to tell at a glance the difference between a mass-produced object and one that has been handcrafted: The handmade item is likely to have distinctive imperfections and clear signs of an individual’s technique and style.

Now, some researchers at MIT are finding ways to blur those distinctions, making it possible, for example, to sculpt items with those distinctive signs of handicraft, while controlling the outcome so that the object doesn’t stray too far from the desired form. They described their work at the recent Association for Computing Machinery Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology.

Amit Zoran, a postdoc at the MIT Media Lab who did much of this work as part of his doctoral thesis research, is the lead author of the reports. He says that, in an age of increasing standardization and mass-production, he has been “searching for this human quality, for ways to translate the long heritage of craft and creativity” into the digital age.

For example, in work with graduate student Roy Shilkrot, Zoran has designed a handheld carving tool that can be programmed with a desired three-dimensional shape. When the user begins to carve a block of material, anytime his motions would extend into the region of the desired final form, the device provides physical feedback that slows the motion. Continue reading the article on MIT News.

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