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telescoPop: Sensorized Responsive Shape-changing Surfaces for the Future Automotive Interior and Beyond

The anticipated future of autonomous public vehicles and the potential for a novel seat and interior designs inspires our team's design innovation. With the advent of autonomous driving technology and the increasing demand for electric vehicles, which provide more spacious interiors by replacing the engine and mechanical systems with batteries and smaller motors, there is newfound freedom for automotive designers and researchers to push the boundaries of AV interior design.


Our team worked closely with automotive industry researchers and UX designers to imagine the future experience of riding in a multipurpose public AV, focusing on the unique interactions that a bench-type seat would bring. We propose a new concept of a shape-changing bench-type seat for a multipurpose public AV that provides dynamic seat division to passengers by conforming its shape around their bodies.

To demonstrate the concept, we developed a shape-changing surface system for adaptive and responsive seating and created a sensorized modular pneumatic actuator integrated into a single person chair. The system provides dynamic support for passengers and seat divisions and can be controlled by a graphical user interface or activated automatically based on pressure-sensing data. The telescoping pneumatic actuator module features a bi-stable joint structure that quickly deforms its shape with a small amount of air. We also describe the detailed DIY fabrication process of the actuator and sensor using accessible materials.


Our shape-changing module is not limited to automobile interiors. With its reconfigurable and local-shape response programmability, it could have broader applications, such as in chairs or sofas with posture-adjusting ability, hospital beds that massage patients lying for long periods, and table-top haptic displays for VR/AR applications. Overall, our innovation has the potential to improve the comfort and versatility of public AVs and beyond, creating a more pleasant and adaptive experience for passengers in various contexts (13).gif

Working demonstration of the shape-changing surface platform. GUI allows the control of individual module. (14).gif

Control of individual module by GUI. The height of the module can be adjusted by controlling the air supplied (inflate/deflate). GUI allows users to select the module they want to control by click it, then adjust the height by up/down arrow keys. (12).gif

Control of individual module by GUI. The height of the module can be adjusted by controlling the air supplied (inflate/deflate). GUI allows users to select the module they want to control by click it, then adjust the height by up/down arrow keys. 

Applications (15).gif

[Activate by Touch/Force] The response behavior can be programmed in various ways. This video shows that the modules are activated (raising their height) in response to the  users touch gesture. (1).gif

[Posture adjustment/ Haptic Feedback]

By utilizing its ability to detect force in a local area, the platform can support the user's posture by controlling the shape (local height) of the contact area until force distribution becomes uniform. Additionally, the platform provides different haptic stimulations to the contact area to nudge users to adjust their posture or deliver information/notification.

Fabrication Process

The shape-deformation motion of the pneumatic telescoping actuator.

Module Structure: Telescoping pneumatic actuator + Pressure-sensitive Sensor Foam


(a) A module consists of pneumatic actuator and pressure sensor. (b) Cross-section (XZ-plane) of the pneumatic actuator. (c) The height of the pneumatic actuator at the default state (first stable state) is 30mm and 76mm when it is fully extended (second stable state). The diameter of the actuator is 88mm.


Telescoping Pneumatic Actuator 

Pressure-sensitive Sensor Foam

Stool structure and assembly process


(Fabrication process of the stool. (a) Wooden frame for plug the module. (b) Frame attached with three legs.(c) Acrylic plate was added in the middle as a structural support and for placing sensing system. (d) Polyurethan foam was laser cut and placed on top of the stool to improve comfort and cushioning. (e) All the module was plugged into the stool and wired to the control system.

Observational Study during the exhibition

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