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Programmable Droplets

Actuated Droplets for Display and Interaction

Udayan Umapathi, Patrick Shin, Ken Nakagaki, Samantha Chin, Tina Xu, Janice Gu, Will Walker, Daniel Leithinger and Hiroshi Ishii


Water is the medium that carries chemical and biological information. It is fundamental for survival and evolution of life. From walking in the rain to working in laboratory - water is ever present and thus important from human-interaction standpoint. It is also safe to directly touch and consume by humans. Our goal is to use this natural medium, to represent data through calm, ubiquitous computing interfaces that leverage the users intuitive knowledge of the world. Hence, we have created the “Programmable Droplets” system that can use droplets in our environment and program them for information manipulation and human interaction.

To illustrate how droplets in our living environment can become interactive we have created a device that can be integrated into various everyday objects, to function as information display, to help make art, enable play and display messages. The Programmable Droplets system utilizes the technique of “electrowetting on dielectric” (EWOD). This technique enables a set of primitive operations, such as precisely translating, morphing, merging, and splitting multiple droplets simultaneously. While these techniques have been previously applied to biological automation by other researchers and our own group, we have now started applying these techniques to create water based computer interfaces.

*This project was conducted at Tangible Media Group, MIT Media Lab -- led by Udayan Umapathi.  ->project page

AxLab Members

Ken Nakagaki

ACM CHI2018 Video Showcase

Programmable droplets for interaction

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