Shape-shifting Technology in HR – Future Awaits this Promising Workplace Trend

An exciting and path-breaking research by MIT media lab called inFORM has paved the way for shape-shifting technology that can revolutionize the traditional ways of working

Folklore, Mythology and speculative fiction have mesmerized us with stories about shape-shifters whereby an entity could transform to other being or form.

While these are yet to be proven theories, trust technology to surprise us with sure-shot solutions that are for everyone to see and believe.

The workplace trends around the world will see a huge reform, as the MIT grown seed i.e. shape-shifting technology in HR sees the light of day.

What is the MIT research on shape-shifting technology?

Created by Daniel Leithinger and Sean Follmer and overseen by Professor Hiroshi Ishii, inform – the shape-shifting interface allows users to interact with digital content in 3D physical form, making computing highly tactile.

It aims to resurrect the natural way of humans dealing with their environment i.e. by touching and physically interacting with things rather than becoming slaves of touchscreen and pure digital interfaces.

It’s a radical work in the User Interface  (UI) sphere that ultimately wishes to bring more connectivity, dexterity and flexibility among users.

Need for Shape-Shifting Technology

Whether it is inFORM or any other technology that serves as shape-shifting resources for future, the basic idea is to leverage the dexterity of hands to manipulate things physically with more precision, thus aiding more control and connect with our devices.

Modern day living demands complex tools with complex controls

Though our traditional tools like computers and mobiles have great static physical form, but the fail to wow us beyond a certain point.

This is owing to two reasons –

  1. Our expectation is to use a single device to do multiple things at the same time
  1. We want dynamic interfaces that let us use our rich bodily abilities to maximum

Tools and Mankind have a long-standing relationship since times immemorial. Tools have served different purpose for different era.

On parallel note, Dr. Anne Roudaut lecturer at Bristol University unveiled shape-shifting modular interactive device called #Cubimorph that explains the human dexterity in best possible way.

Shape-Shifting Technology: Some examples of application

The possibilities of creating shape-shifting applications are plenty and only limited by our imagination.

Newer and broader versions of this technology would become available once this idea becomes mainstream and gets accepted at granular level.

Research studies in this area have pointed to some of the below listed applications of this cool technology.

Our expectation is to use a single device to do multiple things at the same time


Imagine learning graphs and equations by actually visualizing the impact of variables. Wouldn’t Mathematics be fun this way? 3D surface graphs helps to visualize quantitative information like no other instruction method as you can actually touch and interpret these graphs.

Tactile collaboration with remote and virtual teams

Whether it is Skype, FaceTime, Hangouts or any other software, the 3D interface can allow people not only to hear and see each other but also feel each other through gestures, making the interactions richer than ever. Handshakes and high-fives with remote participants are just an atom away.

City or Building Construction

Planning and execution of cities or buildings can become a cakewalk for urban planners and architects with the shape-shifting tools by changing and reviewing layouts, designing structures, tweaking and sharing them as per requirements.

Convertible Mobile Devices

Now turn your phone into a wristband and then into a game controller based on your use and mood. You can deform the existing device and based on the new silhouette, the shape-shifting system understands the function it has to perform. Who thought deformation can be good too?

Smart Furniture

Structures that can adapt and remodel themselves to suit the user’s preference like holding different devices, serve as a worktable, move things spatially or remind to pick things up.

“Shape-shifting” as a Workplace Trend – What it means for Future HR?

The Human Resources function is often the first to get affected with any organizational change. This metamorphosis-based tool is no different.

If treated as HR Technology Trend, shape shifting can have the following implications on people management.

Cost Saving

With HR folks crying foul over budget and expenditures – be it induction, rewards and recognition or administrative office expenses, the scope for recycling the same equipment or tool for multipurpose use is both wide and welcoming.

Training Consistency

The most striking feature of shape-shifting interface is their ability to create uniform experiences for geographically scattered participants. So whether it is a training, conference or workshop, HR can be rest assured that employees across the globe will get consistent message as if in they are in the same room.

Collaborative Engagement

With organizations increasingly going the virtual way, face-to-face meetings and personal touch that comes with it, will be rare. In wake of these developments, technology like this would go a long way in sharing first-hand information with teams without the blur of presumptions and location based judgments.

People Analytics

Getting to play with numbers in spatial terms with touch and feel, can give deeper insights into people data and behavior as compared to static computer screens. This additional ability to view numbers like never before, will give competitive edge to HR.

Quick Tip: As this technology is nascent and yet to be explored at workplace, a phase wise shape-shifting implementation for HR processes will help gauge the success, make tweaks and realize the ROI. This approach would be safer than blanket adoption of this tech trend for all organizational aspects at once.

Shape-Shifting technology gives new ways of interacting with information in spatial and physical terms.

As this technology gets refined in times to come, it will be interesting to watch how it affects our personal and professional lives, by making it more tangible and convenient.


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Written By

Mitalee Chhatre

Mitalee, a true professional with over 5 years of corporate experience in Human Resources and Health Sector. Contributor on CakeHR where tracks the newest trends and practices of the work-life world.