Bistable Embrace aims to engage the public by bringing fundamental engineering research out of the lab environment into the public space. Inspired by our research in dome-patterned metamaterials, the Bistable Embrace seeks to unveil the playful side of research through the exaggeration of scale. While most might be familiar with the “Pop-its” fidget toys, these large dome-pattern sheets seek to encourage communal play and highlight the interaction between mechanics and reshaping embodied in the diversity of adopted forms as domes are inverted in different orders. With countless resulting shapes that the sheet can adopt, engagement with this installation almost imbues this inanimate sheet with a lifelike characteristic that seeks more attention as you engage with it.
Bistable Embrace stems from research exploring the interplay between local constraints and global freedom, technically captured by the term “Geometrical Frustration.” The sheet's order-dependent deformation expresses the local and global force competition as domes are inverted, ultimately relieving this tension in three-dimensional reshaping. This same process has been shown to provide a route for realizing novel soft robotics, mechanical computing materials, and morphing structures. Through this interactive installation, we hope to introduce one of many novel applications for multistable structures and break the paradigm that the goal of engineering research is purely for pragmatic and functional applications.