Additionally, they printed three widgets — a button, a knob and a slider — that work in similar ways and can be used to talk to other smart devices. The researchers also developed two smart objects — a detergent bottle with an attached flowmeter that can track the amount of remaining detergent and order it when it gets low and a test tube holder that can be used to measure the amount of liquid test tubes contain and track inventory. And lastly, they developed a way to print iron into 3D objects in distinct patterns, which when read by a magnetometer in a smartphone, for instance, can be used to convey important information about that object such as what it is, who made it or how a robot is meant to interact with it. “It looks like a regular 3D-printed object but there’s invisible information inside that can be read with your smartphone,” said Justin Chan, another student on the project.

The team is making their 3D models available to the public so that anyone can utilize these objects at home. The work was recently presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia and you can check out a video about the work below.