Digital clay represents a new type of 3-D human-computer interface device that enables tactile and haptic interactions. The digital clay surface is computer controlled and can be commanded to acquire a wide variety of desired shapes, or be deformed by the user in a manner similar to that of real clay. In this paper, we present one digital clay architecture that utilizes a “formable crust” surface and a set of actuators that can deform the crust according to user manipulations or under computer control. The crust behavior is based on an array of spherical joints. Rather than manufacturing a crust with spherical joints, we propose a crust design with arrays of unit cells that have links and compliant revolute joints that is based on spherical geometry. A series of formable crust models is presented that capture the behavior of the crust when the user is actively forming shapes. Algorithms are presented for computing resultant crust shapes. Simulation results are presented and analyzed. All algorithms have computational complexity that scales with the cube of the number of unit cells in the crust. It is shown that real-time response of a formable crust digital clay device is possible, if simplified models are utilized.

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