Researchers at MIT’s Fluid Interfaces Group are blurring the line between the physical and virtual worlds. They believe their latest project, an app called the Reality Editor, will one day let users integrate and control a wide range of objects, including light switches and thermostats in cars, children’s toys, furniture, and even complex factory machinery.
Reality Editor users can reprogram smart objects using their phone’s camera app. The app first analyzes an object and breaks it down into its component functions; users can then isolate a desired function and connect it to another smart object. For instance, let’s say your oven doesn’t have an automatic timer, but your microwave does. Assuming both appliances are smart objects, the Reality Editor would let you use the timer from the microwave with your oven, simply by drawing a line from one to the other.
The app also facilitates “if this, then that” programming: “If I leave the room, then the lights turn off” or “If I leave my apartment, then my car starts running.”
“To put a lot of functionality on physical objects can look very ugly and cost a lot of money,” MIT researcher Valentin Heun told WIRED. Heun believes Reality Editor will allow users to maximize the functionality of physical objects without physically rebuilding them. In the future, MIT believes the range of possibilities will be nearly endless, though currently, programmability is limited to the number of smart objects you own.
According to Fast Company, the Reality Editor uses fingerprint-like code to identify designated smart objects in your home. It then creates an overlay illustrating an object’s functionality, allowing you to re-program it. So far, there aren’t any consumer products that support the Reality Editor’s platform out of the box, but Fast Company explains that if you have the “know-how” it’s possible to build adapters for most major smart products.
"It goes to the deep origin of humanity: we're tool makers," Heun told Fast Company. "We build empowering tools, to manipulate the world around us."
The Reality Editor is available to download at the App Store.