Illuminating Clay

This paper describes a novel system for the real-time computational analysis of landscape models. Users of the system – called Illuminating Clay – alter the topography of a clay landscape model while the changing geometry is captured in real-time by a ceiling-mounted laser scanner. A depth image of the model serves as an input to a library of landscape analysis functions. The results of this analysis are projected back into the workspace and registered with the surfaces of the model.We describe a scenario for which this kind of tool has been developed and we review past work that has taken a similar approach. We describe our system architecture and highlight specific technical issues in its implementation.We conclude with a discussion of the benefits of the system in combining the tangible immediacy of physical models with the dynamic capabilities of computational simulations.

Credits: Piper et al. 2002

IlluminatingClay 3DInterface 2001 from Tangible Media Group on Vimeo.


Ben Piper, Carlo Ratti, and Hiroshi Ishii. 2002. Illuminating clay: a 3-D tangible interface for landscape analysis. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’02). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 355-362. DOI:

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