ZeroN system holds a ball wherever you place it, in mid-air

ZeroN anti-gravity space

MIT’s Media Lab developed working anti-gravity system. Users can physically place a metal ball anywhere within a specified three-dimensional block of “anti-gravity space,” then watch as it stays in place when they let it go. It can also move through the air on its own, and even function as a virtual movie camera.

The ZeroN system was created by Jinha Lee, a Media Lab research assistant. Above its open-air anti-gravity space sits an electromagnet, that can be moved vertically and horizontally via a three-axis motor controller. To the side is a stereo infrared motion-tracking system made with two stock Sony PS3 Eyecam cameras, along with a video projector. A second projector and third camera sit beneath a horizontal translucent screen, that is located on a tabletop underneath the anti-gravity space.

As the user reaches into the space with the ZeroN ball in their hand, the motion-tracking system keeps track of where it is. It relays this information to the motor controller, which moves the electromagnet accordingly. When the user lets go, the magnet will be in such a position that its magnetic field holds the ball in place, right where the user left it. If they then reach in and reposition it, the electromagnet will move with it, to keep it hovering in its new location.

Along with simply keeping the ZeroN where it was left, however, the system can also record its movements and then play them back. This means that the ball could be guided through an aerial routine by hand, let go, and then proceed to repeat that routine on its own.

While these may sound like fascinating parlor tricks, the technology has many potential applications. Using the side-mounted projector, for instance, images can be projected onto the surface of the ZeroN. They will not only stay with it through 3D space, but will also rotate with it as it spins in place. This feature could allow it to be labelled, then used to help visualize physics problems – instead of simply thinking the problems through or looking at two-dimensional computer models, physicists could actually reach in and manipulate models of objects such as electrons by hand.

Source: gizmag.comAdded: 10 May 2012