Designer Joong Han Lee wants to humanize the way we deal with virtual objects in design and prototyping. His answer is Haptic Intelligentsia, a human / robot hybrid that allows users to build physical items around a virtual model using only their sense of touch. Created as Lee's master's thesis at the Design Academy Eindhoven, the project consists of a closed box, which users access through a pair of gloves, and a glue gun attached to a computer-controlled robotic arm. Lee programs a virtual object into the workspace — in this case, a simple cylinder — and the robotic arm provides haptic feedback whenever the gun comes into contact with the object's "surface." Using the quick-drying glue, users can then build real objects while sculpting around the model's virtual contours.

The process is not dissimilar to that utilized by 3D printers like MakerBot, which use successive layers of plastic to create a physical object from a virtual model. Since Haptic Intelligentsia doesn't strictly limit the user's actions, however, the results are as varied and nuanced as any human-generated work of art.  "I'm trying to find a new way of crafting," says Lee, who sees a refined version being used to create new products with a number of different materials. To be honest, words don't quite do the project justice, so be sure to check out the video below to see Lee's creation in action.