Stefanie Mueller

Associate Professor, EECS/MechE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Giving Physical Objects Digital Capabilities

Abstract: Computing has revolutionized how we process and interact with data today, unfortunately, these capabilities are constraint to the digital realm and cannot yet be applied to physical matter. For instance, today, we can already quickly update the appearance of a digital photo by applying a filter or adding and removing elements. However, updating physical objects in the same way is not possible today. In this talk, I will show my research group’s latest developments that bring us closer to a future in which physical objects are as reprogrammable as data is today. As a first example of this, I will show our research on a new reprogrammable material that can be applied to the surface of physical objects and that allows them to change their appearance within a few minutes. This allows us to update the color of clothing, shoes, and even entire rooms in the same way as we can update a digital photo today. I will then show additional developments that extend this concept to further integrate computing capabilities into physical objects, show our research on how we can print functional objects in one go without the need for assembly, and demonstrate how we can create unified prototyping environments that support engineers and designers in fabricating new types of physical objects.


  • Ph.D., Computer Science / Human Computer Interaction, summa cum laude, Hasso Plattner Institute, Germany