The idea of tangible interaction goes back as far as 1997 when Ishii first formulated his idea of bringing back physical items to human-computer interfaces. He invented physical controls that allows you to manipulate digital data more intuitively.
Pushing this idea a step further Ishii wondered how to bring digital information back into the real world using actuated tangibles that can dynamically show the changes of the digital information. One problem is changing the position of physical controls (e.g. by air, vibration or magnetic control), more challenging is to change the shape of physical controls on the fly. Both inFORM and ChainFORM deal with the problem of changing shape dynamically.
Ken Nakagaki, Artem Dementyev, Sean Follmer, Joseph A. Paradiso, Hiroshi Ishii. ChainFORM: A Linear Integrated Modular Hardware System for Shape Changing Interfaces. In Proceedings of the 29th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software & Technology (UIST ‘16).
Sean Follmer, Daniel Leithinger, Alex Olwal, Akimitsu Hogge, and Hiroshi Ishii. 2013. inFORM: dynamic physical affordances and constraints through shape and object actuation. In Proceedings of the 26th annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology (UIST ’13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 417-426.
Hiroshi Ishii and Brygg Ullmer. 1997. Tangible bits: towards seamless interfaces between people, bits and atoms. In Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ’97). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 234-241.