Instead of using a tape measure to see if a sofa will fit in your living room, why not build a full-scale model of it using tubes of tape? The Protopiper [PDF] allows you to do just that by “physically sketching” objects at actual size.

Developed by researchers at the Human Computer Interaction lab at the Hasso-Plattner-Institut, the device rolls adhesive tape into sturdy, hollow tubes complete with wings on each end, making them easy to connect. Each tube can be programmed for a specific length, ready to assemble into prototypes of tables, cabinets, and even folding umbrellas. The concept was inspired by the wireframe models created by 3D modeling software—only these models are capable of occupying a physical space in full scale. 

The device is in the same vein as 3D printers in that it helps designers build cheap prototypes of products to aid them in perfecting their final designs. The Protopiper, however, creates models that are much simpler than those from a 3D printer and can be made in minutes rather than hours. Just don’t try sitting on your wireframe couch—the models are for design purposes only. You can check out the device in action below.

All images courtesy of Hasso-Plattner-Institut

[h/t Gizmodo]