Touchscreen tech goes 3D

Paul Raven @ 07-10-2009

People keep doing clever stuff with touchscreen interfaces, despite a continuing dearth of products bigger than a smartphone that actually include one. Some chaps from the University of Potsdam have been working at making a Microsoft Surface touchscreen computer detect items that aren’t necessarily directly in contact with it:

Each Lumino block has a pattern on its base that identifies its 3D shape, and the Surface table can read them using its four internal cameras that peer up at the acrylic top. That means the computer can build up a 3D picture of what lies on its surface.

The Luminos can also make themselves known to the Surface when they’re stacked up, however. They are packed with fibre-optic threads that ferry the pattern of any block placed on top of another down to the screen. So, although a second storey Lumino isn’t in direct contact with the touch screen, the computer knows it’s there.

As blocks stack up, the risk increases that the patterns from different layers of Luminos will become too jumbled for the screen to interpret. But the fibre-optic bundles are angled so that the pattern visible to the screen at the bottom of a stack includes parts of the patterns of all its blocks. That can allow the screen to recognise stacks up to 10 blocks high.

I really want some hardware like that for use as a combined coffee-table and workbench… though I think I’ll wait until someone other than Microsoft is making them.


Augmented reality contact lenses

Paul Raven @ 02-09-2009

cyborg eyeAll this talk about augmented reality is all well and good, but wandering around holding up a little rectangular gadget to see things through is hardly an elegant science fictional solution, now is it?

As a fully paid-up cyberpunk, I want everything as tightly integrated to the meat as possible – so I want my AR operating no further from me than the surface of my eyeballs. Luckily I shouldn’t have too long to wait – at least not if Babak Parviz of the University of Washington has the successes he hopes for with his augmented reality contact lens concept:

Conventional contact lenses are polymers formed in specific shapes to correct faulty vision. To turn such a lens into a functional system, we integrate control circuits, communication circuits, and miniature antennas into the lens using custom-built optoelectronic components. Those components will eventually include hundreds of LEDs, which will form images in front of the eye, such as words, charts, and photographs. Much of the hardware is semitransparent so that wearers can navigate their surroundings without crashing into them or becoming disoriented. In all likelihood, a separate, portable device will relay displayable information to the lens’s control circuit, which will operate the optoelectronics in the lens.

These lenses don’t need to be very complex to be useful. Even a lens with a single pixel could aid people with impaired hearing or be incorporated as an indicator into computer games. With more colors and resolution, the repertoire could be expanded to include displaying text, translating speech into captions in real time, or offering visual cues from a navigation system. With basic image processing and Internet access, a contact-lens display could unlock whole new worlds of visual information, unfettered by the constraints of a physical display.

Parviz has a long old article there, and for those with a more technical bent it gives an insight into the way the contacts will actually work… though he’s canny enough not to put a solid date on the technology becoming available. [via New York Times; image by pasukaru76]

I wonder if he needs any test subjects?


In your face interface

Tom James @ 06-08-2009

The folks at Technology Review have run up a top ten of futurismic display/interface combos, all on display at SIGGRAPH 2009, I particularly like the haptic holography from researchers at the University of Tokyo:

The virtual objects appear in mid-air thanks to an LCD and a concave mirror. The sensation of touching the objects is created using an ultrasound device positioned below the LCD and mirror.

It’ll be interesting to see whether people end up using more traditional haptic devices like gloves and goggles combinations, or choose something based on holography and sound waves.

Also note that Wii remotes are used as off-the-shelf sensors, the street, or academia, finds its own use for things.


It’s here, just not evenly distributed…

Tom James @ 09-09-2008

When I imagine what life will be like in ten, twenty, or thirty years time one of the few things I’m pretty certain of is that every flat surface will eventually turn into a video screen of some kind (and will probably be used to advertise stuff).

And here we have an early example of this trend from Esquire magazine:

To commemorate Esquire’s 75th Anniversary, we have published an experimental limited-edition of the October 2008 issue that features something called electronic ink, with moving words and flashing images … It is available at some major bookstores and newsstands.

The most elegantly-described science fictional use of electronic ink-like display technologies that comes to mind are the “mediatrons” in Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age. Described here:

…a thin film of nanobar coupled with a layer of rod-logic nanocomputers and light filters to produce a flexible graphic displayer in the form of a piece of paper, a poster or even wallpaper. Cheap and plentiful, with a higher pixel-count than the human can resolve…

According to the information provided by Esquire we’re not at this stage yet, with the whole setup requiring elaborate arrangements to manufacture.

A helpful individual has created a flickr set showing detailed photographs and detailed video of the limited edition magazine.

[via Slashdot]


Multi-touch goes “global”

JustinP @ 29-07-2008

vista-spheresHere at Futurismic, we’ve talked about multi-touch interfaces before. However, today, Microsoft researchers have revealed a development of the technology which is, well, something of a conceptual leap.

While flat-panel displays might be the current interface zeitgeist, Todd Bishop (amongst others) believes this development means “Microsoft thinks the shape of things to come might be a sphere”

Microsoft researchers are taking the wraps off a prototype that uses an internal projection and vision system to bring a spherical computer display to life. People can touch the surface with multiple fingers and hands to manipulate photos, play games, spin a virtual globe, or watch 360-degree videos …

Sphere is a cousin of the Microsoft Surface tabletop computer, already being used in retail and hospitality settings. The underlying hardware for Sphere is sold commercially by Global Imagination of Los Gatos, Calif., but Microsoft researchers made numerous enhancements and developed specialized software.

In a broader sense, the project reflects Microsoft’s belief that many more surfaces will become computer displays, with embedded microprocessors, in the years to come.

To wrap your head around some of the potential applications of this muti-touch globe, check out the video!

For me, it’s with the omnidirectional video / surveillance applications that this technology really begins to show its value …

[story via Todd Bishop’s Microsoft Blog. Image by likeyesterday, via Flickr]


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