Illusory Material searches for virtual intimacy in the physical reality

The Illusory Material team is focused on revitalizing and expanding the concept of “reality”. They believe that perceived realism continues to change as technology advances and that digital and physical reality are adapting.

Illusory Material seeks virtual intimacy in physical reality, manifested in interactive spaces, materials, or designs at various scales. Their mission is to develop revolutionary new techniques for designers to approach design without the constraints of the status quo.

Pushing the limits of traditional design methods - Illusory Materials

According to the team, “Our mission is to experiment in the digital and physical worlds; to push the boundaries of traditional design and eliminate the need to simply replicate existing materials; to break down the medium of design into ‘problems,’ restructuring and reinventing materiality to create unique expressions , form, nature, and experience.

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Jiani Zeng and Honghao Deng create 3D printed textiles by combining tiny optical lenses with colored resins to create dynamic physical materials. This “dream-like” material with a unique expression was previously only available in the digital world and could not be produced using traditional manufacturing methods. Its designed computational workflow can be applied to any shape and surface, ushering in a new era of interactive CMF without the need for electrical input.

Pushing the limits of traditional design methods - Illusory Materials
Pushing the limits of traditional design methods - Illusory Materials

They propose, with Illusion Materials, to overcome surface limitations in object and industrial design by adding another dimension to the material interface. They introduce a new material organization that responds directly to the intervention of the user and the environment by incorporating information into a three-dimensional problem (voxel). Designers can manipulate materials down to the meta level with 3D voxel printing, creating shifting patterns, interactive text content, and sensitive visual effects. It’s the team’s vision of future experience design: energy efficient, fun, dynamic, and highly customizable.

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Also, research won awards such as TIME’s Best Inventions 2021, IF Design Award, Winner in “Discipline: Product”; International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA), Silver Champion; Design Intelligence Award, Gold Champion; Fast Enterprise Innovation by Design 2020, winner in the “Experimental” category.

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Jiani Zeng and Honghao Deng founded and direct Material Illusion. Yunyi Zhu conducts research in lenticular 3D printing at MIT under the supervision of Professors Axel Kilian and Stefanie Mueller.

Pushing the limits of traditional design methods - Illusory Materials


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