Yasushi Matoba’s Fluidized Bed Interface was selected for the INNO-vation Program’s Disruptive Challenge in 2017. Although Matoba wasn’t the one to discover the fluidized bed phenomenon, repurposing the technology typically found in incinerators into something that people could touch and interact with was groundbreaking.
An interface equipped with a fluidized bed contains all sorts of possibilities, one of which is entertainment use. With the 1-year challenge period in the INNO-vation Program underway, Matoba started with making an apparatus that could be used in haunted houses.
Ghosts and monsters suddenly bursting out from hard-to-see hiding spots is what you’d typically expect in a haunted house. These hiding spots tend to be fairly distanced from the people in the house. With the Fluidized Bed Interface, however, ghosts could pop out from the very floor you’re walking on.
“I made an apparatus that had a big mannequin coming out of the sand that would drag you under. It’s also possible to make a trap door for the last person to enter the haunted house. Upon entering, the floor you’re walking on would just be a normal floor. But with a flip of a switch, the floor could turn into liquid and trap your feet inside. That would definitely have people shaking in their boots,” Matoba laughs.
In addition, Matoba created a device that could illuminate pellets of luminescent resin, producing balls of light in the veil of darkness. By covering the bottom of a bed of sand with these pellets, at first glance it would appear to be just a normal surface, but turning off the lights, darkening the room, and liquefying the sand through the fluidized bed process creates a totally different effect. The pellets rise to the surface first and cause it to glitter and shine in a spectacular array of color.
Matoba also dabbled in an experiment to bake sweet potatoes using the fluidized bed. Iron has a melting point of around 1500 degrees celsius, and sand can withstand just a little more at around 1800 degrees. By fluidizing heated sand and putting objects such as a sweet potato inside of it, the thermal energy and air required for baking it are supplied by the sand and the device, respectively. It’s the same fundamental principle used in fluidized bed incinerators.
“Using a fluidized bed allows for heat to be spread around evenly, which lets sweet potatoes bake more quickly. Conversely, sand inside a fluidized bed can be kept smooth even at temperatures of -150 degrees celsius, allowing for fish and other items to be kept frozen. I’ve thought of a lot of different possibilities for this technology, although that’s not to say I think I can make anything I want to. Pointing out the possibilities first is important. By showing people what’s possible, they can use that as a basis to create something brand new. For that reason, I’m trying to disseminate information about this technology,” Matoba stated.