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- Glowing Blocks as Volumetric Pixels
<Formerly introduced as Tangible Pixels>

Full Video (mpeg 720x480)
Abstract for SIGGRAPHae



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What if pixels escaped the monitor screen and became controllable by people? We present a prototype of our new display system Bloxel, whose phyiscal shape can be created by users. Through this module-based approach, we aim to create display system which enables information controllable through both physical and visual senses, so that users can actively explore and manipulate what they see.




A Bloxel is a translucent cubical block that glows in full color according to the transmitted data from the neighboring Bloxel, and works as a volumetric pixel when a user stacks hundreds of Bloxels to build displays with a variety of shapes.Users can build displays with a variety of shapes by stacking hundreds of Bloxels.

Each Bloxel obtains its color data from the lower Bloxel through infrared high-speed flickers, and transfers a series of color data to the upper Bloxel. In this way, Bloxels serve as volumetric pixels which can display meaningful content as a whole. With our module-based approach, we introduce a ground-breaking display technology. Moreover, as an augmented version of children’s block play, Bloxels will have a significant impact on the field of physical computing and tangible interfaces

hand info


System Design

Our technical innovations are as follows: First, our optical design for simple communication through light is crucial for the intuitive manipulation of physical blocks. A Bloxel consists of two full color LEDs for display, nine infra-red LEDs for data transmission, a photo detector, a battery and a micro controller. The infra-red LEDs are placed so as to realize the data transmission even when the neighboring Bloxels are not completely in contact with each other. Second, our data processing method enables a simple system configuration.

While each Bloxel communicates only with the neighboring ones, 3D sensors or cameras are not necessary to track the positions of the Bloxels. Finally, to send signals to the base of the stacked Bloxels, we have invented a horizontal tabletop display system. Our specialized DLP projector can emit high-speed flickering signals pixel by pixel to the base. This allows users to realize several kinds of applications as demonstrated in our video.

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Prior to improving system's resolution as display for practical use, we are exploring ways to use media art and educational works as its test-bed, observing what kind of experience that users can gain with Bloxels. Several concepts for possible applications are demonstrated in our video.
Full Video (mpeg, high resolution 720x480)
Full Video (mpeg, low resolution 720x480)


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