A Characterization of Actuation Techniques for Generating Movement in Shape-Changing Interfaces

Faisal Taher, John Vidler, Jason Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (SciVal)
34 Downloads (Pure)


This article characterizes actuation techniques for generating movement in shape-changing displays with physically reconfigurable geometry. To date, few works in Human Computer Interaction literature provide detailed and reflective descriptions of the implementation techniques used in shape-changing displays. This hinders the rapid development of novel interactions as researchers must initially spend time understanding technologies before prototyping new interactions and applications. To bridge this knowledge gap, we propose a taxonomy that classifies actuator characteristics and simplifies the process for designers to select appropriate technologies that match their requirements for developing shape-displays. We scope our investigation to linear actuators that are used in grid configurations. The taxonomy is validated by (a) examining current implementation techniques of motorized, pneumatic, hydraulic, magnetic, and shape-memory actuators in the literature, (b) constructing prototypes to address limited technical details and explore actuator capabilities in depth, (c) describing a use-case scenario through a case study that details the construction of a 10 ? 10 actuator shape-display, and (d) a set of guidelines to aid researchers in selecting actuation techniques for shape-changing applications. The significance of our taxonomy is twofold. First, we provide an original contribution that enables HCI researchers to appropriately select actuation techniques and build shape-changing applications. This is situated amongst other past works that have investigated broader application scenarios such as a shape-changing vocabulary, a framework for shape transformations, material properties, and technical characteristics of various actuators. Second, we carry out in-depth investigations to validate our taxonomy and expand the knowledge of vertical actuation in shape-changing applications to enable rapid development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-398
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Human-Computer Interaction
Issue number5
Early online date21 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Actuation techniques
  • case study
  • electromagnetic
  • electromechanical
  • hydraulic
  • piezoelectric
  • pneumatic
  • Shape-changing displays
  • shape-changing interfaces
  • shape-memory alloy
  • taxonomy


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