Current interactive workbench systems share a common weakness. While input occurs through the physical manipulation of tangible objects, output is displayed only through sound or graphical projection on and around the objects. As a result, the objects can feel like loosely coupled handles to digital information rather than physical manifestations of the information itself.
In addition, the user must sometimes compensate for inconsistencies when links between the digital data and the physical objects are broken. Such broken links can arise when a change occurs in the computer model that is not reflected in a physical change of its associated object. With the computer system unable to move the objects on the table surface, it cannot undo physical input, correct physical inconsistencies in the layouts of the objects, or guide the user in the physical manipulation of the objects. As long as this is so, the physical interaction between human and computer remains one-sided.
The Actuated Workbench
attempts to address these limitations by providing a hardware and software infrastructure for a computer to smoothly move objects on a table surface in two dimensions.