Mixels: Fabricating Interfaces using Programmable Magnetic Pixels

Martin Nisser , Yashaswini Makaram , Lucian Covarrubias , Amadou Bah , Faraz Faruqi , Ryo Suzuki , Stefanie Mueller



In this paper, we present Mixels, programmable magnetic pixels that can be rapidly fabricated using an electromagnetic printhead mounted on an off-the-shelve 3-axis CNC machine. The ability to program magnetic material pixel-wise with varying magnetic force enables Mixels to create new tangible, tactile, and haptic interfaces. To facilitate the creation of interactive objects with Mixels, we provide a user interface that lets users specify the high-level magnetic behavior and that then computes the underlying magnetic pixel assignments and fabrication instructions to program the magnetic surface. Our custom hardware add-on based on an electromagnetic printhead and hall effect sensor clips onto a standard 3-axis CNC machine and can both write and read magnetic pixel values from magnetic material. Our evaluation shows that our system can reliably program and read magnetic pixels of various strengths, that we can predict the behavior of two interacting magnetic surfaces before programming them, that our electromagnet is strong enough to create pixels that utilize the maximum magnetic strength of the material being programmed, and that this material remains magnetized when removed from the magnetic plotter.

Keywords:  Programmable MaterialsMagnetic InterfacesFabrication


Martin Nisser, Yashaswini Makaram, Lucian Covarrubias, Amadou Bah, Faraz Faruqi, Ryo Suzuki, Stefanie MuellerMixels: Fabricating Interfaces using Programmable Magnetic PixelsIn Proceedings of the Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST '22)ACM, New York, NY, USA  Page: 1-12.  DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3526113.3545698