Wednesday, August 19, 2009

See it ..Touch it..Use it!!!

I happened to stumble across some really cool technology last month. I was at the PC Magazine 25th anniversary party (yes it was as exciting as it sounds) and I was staring at the coffee table in front of me, which had a scene from a beach shore being projected onto it from above. The killer thing was, if you touched the water, ripples were sent out as if it were really there. Smack the table and the whole water surface becomes visibly distorted, as if it were real. The technology had the whole place in awe. Everyone was poking the coffee table and dragging their hands across the surface in order to see how it would affect the projected image of water.

The technology behind the demonstration comes from a Cologne, Germany company called Vertigo Systems. The company has found a way to mount a camera on a projector that is capable of defining a space and (through the help of some great software and really fast computer processors) can alter a projected image in real time, based on whatever the camera sees you doing.

Everybody is jumping into this technology in some form or another. While Vertigo is doing it with projectors, Microsoft Corp. is out flogging it's Surface device. During his keynote speech at CES, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates showed off how some stores are already using the device. One very proud snowboard shop was used as a specific example. Using Surface, people can pick a virtual snowboard, apply virtual decals and even hand draw a design on the board before they buy it. Once they see how everything looks, they confirm their purchase and the design is sent to manufacturing. Another use for the Surface is believed to be in restaurants, where they could replace traditional wait staff. Instead of looking a menu, everything the shop has to offer appears on the screen in front of you. Just scroll through the selections, pick what you want and hit go. The food is brought right to you. When it's time to pay, just drop a credit card on the surface. The table reads the micro-chip embedded in the card and charges your account.

Other companies are jumping in on this too, with some even trying to replace the walls of office cubicles with touch screen panels that allow people to post virtual sticky notes, conduct video conference calls and interact with staff and customers in ways that have traditionally been impossible to do. Then there are other companies such as Heliodisplay that are doing things like this.

It all seems really far fetched and "out there". But, when you add up all of the technology available, it won't take very long before we live in a "Minority Report"

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