Instant Liquefaction with the Fluidized Bed Interface (Part 1)

Yasushi Matoba

Yasushi Matoba’s Fluidized Bed Interface combines the sand-liquifying fluidized bed phenomenon with a mesmerizing digital interface. We ask him about its origin.


Interviewer & Japanese Writer: Yamamoto Takaya; Translation & Editing: Matthew Cherry

From the depths of a still sea of endless sand, a basketball rises up and bursts through the surface. With Yasushi Matoba’s Fluidized Bed Interface - selected for the 2017 INNO-vation Program’s Disruptive Challenge - experiencing this sort of bizarre reality is just par for the course.

When containers of fine, grain-like materials such as sand have air flowing through them from the bottom, the material begins to behave like a liquid. This phenomenon, known as a fluidized bed, is often used in incinerators. Matoba’s creation uses the fluidized bed phenomenon for various entertainment purposes.

The Fluidized Bed Interface

Matoba originally wasn’t conducting research into fluidized beds, but instead focused mainly on interfaces during his research at university. “Ever since I was a kid, I always liked thinking of ideas that no one had ever conceived before,” Matoba explains. Indeed, what he ended up creating were no run-of-the-mill interfaces.

Take the Splash Display for example, which displays explosions of light in real space. Tiny polystyrene beads spread out across a touchscreen table are launched into the air and images are then projected on their surfaces, creating the illusion that small explosions are actually occurring before your very eyes.

The AquaTop Display on the other hand combines tech with bath time, creating a touch panel display on top of the bathwater's surface. First, bath salts are dropped into the water to turn it pure white, which then allows a projector placed above the bath to display images on the water’s surface. Ripples made from touching or otherwise interacting with the water are detected by a Kinect Sensor Camera, effectively turning the bathwater into a touch panel.

Matoba’s also worked on other unique creations, including an electrifying touch panel, and a display that projects images onto fish.

On one fateful day, Matoba came across a Youtube video about Fluidized Bed Incinerators. Matoba felt that the fluidized bed itself had a wide variety of possibilities. “By making a large surface and projecting an image onto it, you could essentially walk on top of a display. You could also make a device that lets you swim in the middle of a bed of sand. I thought adding an interface to it all would certainly create something fun and exciting.”

A middle school student tries out the Fluidized Bed Interface

In 2016, production of an interface that used a fluidized bed began, and a prototype sizing in at approximately 1.6 square meters was created. That’s when Matoba found out about the INNO-vation Program through a friend. “I had a lot of different ideas about interfaces I wanted to create utilizing the fluidized bed, so I thought it would be great if I could receive support from the INNO-vation Program.

In Part 2, we’ll cover the development process within the INNO-vation Program.

Yasushi Matoba

Continued in Part 2 

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