This is a list of project ideas. Most of them are half-formed and will require a great deal of independent thinking and work from the student, but also represent excellent learning opportunities.

Most of these projects deal with physical computing: computing devices that somehow interact with the real world.

This list of projects is organized into rough categories, illustrating the balance of work involved:


"Familiar object" database

A frequent problem for novices in 3D modeling is understanding size. Can we make reference to a database of standardized “familiar objects” (e.g., consumer electronics with known sizes like phones) to use as in-software reference items? This could help novices get an idea of the true size of their model, and possibly could also serve as reference geometry.

"Lint" for 3D Modeling

Lint for software finds problems in code. Can we make something similar for augmented fabrication? This would involve modifying a 3D design environment to check for problems of symmetry, centering, objects almost but not quite touching, and so on, and providing feedback to the user about these problems.

Discoverability for Voice Assistants

Figure out how to make voice assistant commands discoverable. Can it be done without using visual assistance?


Geometric Modeling

Two points make a line, but three can make a plane, triangle, or circle. The goal in this project is to take a small set of measurements in space and suggest possible shapes that those measurments could be from: was it a cube, a sphere, a light bulb or an iPhone? This will form part of an interactive system to help people create digital models of physical objects.

In-situ 1:1 design via AR

Lots of fabrication activities concentrate on small, handheld objects. How can we design for larger objects, like furniture? Can we do this at a 1:1 scale, situated in the real world? Augmented reality could be a good way to do this. What kind of tools and visualization ability is needed?

Interaction via eytracking

Can we control objects in the environment solely via eye tracking? By using the vestibuluo-ocular reflex, which is the property that keeps our eyes stil when we’re looking at something, we might be able to get information about how the head is moving and use this motion as a control mechanism.

Pneumatic printing design environment

In our lab, we’re looking at pneumatic (air-driven) interaction. However, we need a design environment that allows the construction of tubes, holes, and various other features in 3D meshes. This project would involve using graphics libraries to construct or modify a design environment to make this task easier.

Thread Printer Algorithms

I have many ideas for building a printer that can embed threads into a 3D-printed object. There’s a non-trivial (I think) algorithmic task here in figuring out the right way to route threads while printing to make everything work correctly.


Air table construction and control

We are working on a large-scale air table—imagine an air hockey table with each jet of air individually controllable. There is a lot of mechanical construction to be done, as well as software work (both Arduino-level and computer control) to create interesting interactions and demos.

Ear-wiggling UI for Wearables

Build and evaluate an interface that lets people control a wearable by wiggling their ears. (Maybe it also teaches them how to wiggle their ears first.)

Heat-morphing "4D" printing

Recent work from the CMU Morphing Matter Lab has shown how standard 3D printers using standard plastic can produce objects which change shape when heat is applied. Can we take this principle further, to create objects which move or change shape when a user interacts with them?

Mask UIs

With the spread of COVID-19, many people are wearing face masks a lot of the time. This presents an interesting opportunity to augment masks with technology. We might be able to add output (LEDs near the nose for subtle notifications?), input (see the idea about ear-wiggling interfaces; or maybe whispered speech input), or other functionality.

Printed-on 2D "acoustic barcodes"

Previous research at CMU illustrated acoustic barcodes, a pattern of ridges which make a characteristic sound when scratched. Can we print small areas which have the same property into 3D-printed objects, so that a user can simply use a fingernail and scratch an area of interest? This could be done by varying the layer height or other properties of the 3D printing process.


Fluidic interaction

Fluidics, or fluid logic, is a principle that uses air to perform computation. How can we use this principle to create 3D printed objects that become interactive with only air input? This would allow the quick creation of useful objects without any complex assembly. This project involves a lot of experimentation with fabrication, as well as reading historical literature about design for fluidics.

Modify 3D printer for soft silicone printing

This is a relatively straightforward projects, involving following the procedure shown here to build a 3D printer capable of printing objects in soft silicone. This would enable us to make highly flexible 3D-printed objects, which then could become interactive with air or other actuation mechanisms.


On-skin pneumatic morphing UI

Pneumatic actuations enable a large change in volume and rigidness. We want to explore such properties for interfaces on human skin. The student is expected to generate application ideas for on-skin pneumatic interfaces, prototype some of the ideas, and possibly conduct a user study with the prototypes. (Co-supervised by Hyunyoung Kim.)

Paper-based Shape-changing Interfaces

Paper is cheap and expressive material, and we wonder how we can use it to implement shape-change features. The student is expected to explore different origami and kirigami patterns to express various shape-change features and also evaluate actuation techniques (electromagnet, thermal plastic, etc.) to find suitable techniques for the patterns. (Co-supervised by Hyunyoung Kim.)


Thread Printer Hardware

I have some detailed notes on possible designs for building a printer that can embed threads (or thread-like substances such as fibre optics) into a 3D-printed object while it’s being printed. This project would build the hardware for the printer.


Multimodal Modeling for 3D Printing

How could voice and gesture control be used to help in modeling for 3D printing? What kinds of things might people say? How would their command and gestures change based on what they are modeling? This project would involve asking people to pretend to use a future 3D-modeling system in this way, and determining what kinds of features would be natural to use.


Perception and Shape-changing Devices

Shape-changing interfaces can trigger feelings such as surprise, excitement. The project is about investigating the relationship between shape-change features (e.g., speed, volume, direction) and triggered users’ feelings. The student is expected to implement a few primitive shape-changing interfaces and conduct a controlled user study. (Co-supervised by Hyunyoung Kim.)