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Morphing Matter: Designing Bioinspired Transformative Materials and Interfaces

Lining Yao
Assistant Professor, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University


Newell-Simon Hall 1305 (Michael Mauldin Auditorium)

Video link


Technology, one might claim, is designed to recapitulate biology: as we strive to design physical objects and architecture that are adaptive, responsive and ever evolving, we find ourselves immersed in Nature’s way. Yet, after years of practice in transforming materiality for adaptive physical interfaces, we realize that it is the combination of the two worldviews — both natural and engineering approaches — that generates a method including their best facets: adaptation with speed, transformation with accuracy, growth with control and response with augmented purposes.
This talk begins with reflections on natural materials, on their adaptive and transformable behaviors across scales. A few research projects will be described, each representing different levels of integration between natural and engineering approaches in order to achieve interfaces with a dynamic output of physical materiality.
Note: some of the projects included were conducted in collaboration with reseachers at MIT Media Lab, where the speaker went for her graduate school. Specific credits will be addressed in the talk.

Speaker's Bio

Lining Yao is an Assistant Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon UniversitySchool of Computer Science.  She is the founding director of the Morphing Matter Lab. By developing transformative and adaptive materials, the lab designs interfaces that redefine the interactive relationship between human, other living organisms, environment, objects and intangible data. Her team challenges the definition of traditional human computer interface which was constrained on a computer screen, and encode information and interactivity into physical materials. They call such interactive material as "morphing matter"! In the lab, they design for the myrid of life experiences, including clothes we wear, objects we use, environment we habitate, robots and AI we rely on, and even food we eat:


Lining and her lab work antidiciplinarilly, publishing and exhibiting across science, engineering, design and art. Lining's work appear in both scientific journals (e.g. Science Advances, Journal of 3D Additive Manufacturing) and top conferences in the field of human computer interaction. She has been awarded Best Paper award (UIST 2013), Nominated Best Demo award (UIST 2013), Best Talk award (CHI 2015) and paper Honorable Mention award (CHI 2015). She has won numerous design awards including Fast Compnary Design by Innovation Award, A Design Award, Core77 Community Choice Prize Winner, Red Dot Award, iF Design Award and IxDA Awards. Lining was recently named Wired innovation fellow. She has exhibited her work at Center Pompidou in Paris, Ars Electronica, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Dubai Design Week. She curated and implemented bioLogic exhibition for MIT Media Lab 30's anniversary in October, 2015. In addition, she has been collaborating with industrial partners including Target, Food + Future, New Balance, Toyota, Cisco, Estee Lauder and Colgate to explore the future of wearable, mobility, communication, food and cosmetics.

Brad Myers