Augmented reality projectors bring Leias cry for help one step closer to

first_imgAnyone who grew up with Star Wars lore has likely dreamed of the day when we can communicate with each other via 3D holograms projected in mid-air. While that may not be the exact aim of the “augmented projectors” that Microsoft is developing, they incorporate some real-life technology that could bring the fantasy one step closer to our everyday lives.The prototype projector is the work of Microsoft’s research lab in Cambridge, England. One of its creators, Steve Clayton, thought of the idea when he was shopping for furniture, and wondered if he would one day be able to project bookshelves into his living room to see how they’d look.Though they are still in a relatively primitive prototype phase, these projectors reveal some exciting potential for ten years (or so) down the road. Utilizing Kinect technology, they can sense the environment in which they are placed, isolating foreground objects (like people) from the inanimate background. One then holds the mobile projector in his hand, which projects a beam of light. This beam serves as a window into the 3D virtual version of the environment, and allows all sorts of back-and-forth interactions between the real and virtual world.These interactions include some basic tools like: scanning individual physical objects into the virtual world (and then placing a projection of them elsewhere), manipulating objects with shadows (which will undoubtedly lead to some brilliant shadow puppet theatre), drawing in mid-air, and pinching to scroll a projected image. You can even project pre-recorded objects – or people – into the real environment.Potential usesWhile this list may not immediately inspire you to think of practical uses (other than some slightly-less boring presentations), imagine when this device can be manufactured in a much smaller form factor, with higher resolution. We may one day carry discreet, jewelry-sized mobile projectors that present almost realistic-looking images.In addition to Clayton’s vision of virtual furniture shopping, this could lead to all kinds of interactions. Imagine playing a virtual game of one-on-one (without a physical basketball or hoop), being able to hold a virtual 3D model of a product while shopping online, or taking a virtual walkthrough of a house that’s on the other side of the world. And yes, this could eventually open the door to Star Wars-like 3D hologram chat too.While that kind of consumer version might be at least a decade (or two) away, it’s fun to be reminded that our current technology will one day look just as archaic as an Atari 2600 or Commodore 64 does today. That should be reassuring to rebel princesses in distress, if nobody else.Be sure to check out the tech in action below:More at Microsoft Research Blog, via Geekwirelast_img read more