Microsoft Revises Furniture Of The Future With Mirage Table
May 10, 2012

Microsoft Revises Furniture Of The Future With Mirage Table

John Neumann for

Microsoft again promises the future, but may again, be just out of reach.

Several years ago Microsoft showed off its version of the future with a two-dimensional interactive tabletop that could show off the photos from your digital camera, display your e-mails and play games.

So while you wait for this to show up in furniture stores, the software giant is showing off its latest version of the future with a three-dimensional, interactive tabletop that could, uhmm, show off the photos from your digital camera, display your e-mails and play games. Oh, and interact with a holographic friend!

Demonstrating its latest in future tech at an Austin, Texas tech conference, the MirageTable uses a 3D-video projector to beam images onto a sheet of curved white plastic placed in front of the user.

At each end, a Kinect depth camera uses sensors to track the direction of each person´s gaze as well as to capture the shape and appearance of objects placed on the surface and the participant sitting behind them.

If sitting in front of a plastic screen isn´t awkward enough, users are also required to wear shutter glasses in order to see the projected image in three dimensions. Two computers linked by a network connection power the experience, reports BBC News.

Microsoft engineers claim to have been, “motivated by a simple idea: can we enable the user to interact with 3D digital objects alongside real objects in the same physically realistic way and without wearing any additional trackers, gloves or gear.”

Success was achieved in these goals, say the researchers, in that the experience was a significant improvement on current video conferencing technologies.

“In our system, the user can hold a virtual object, move it, or knock it down, since all virtual and real objects participate in a real-world physics simulation... The unique benefit of this setup is that two users share not only the 3D image of each other, but also the tabletop task space in front of them.”

A demonstration video shows two people working at different locations to build an object out of blocks, with one researcher measuring the distance between the pieces placed by the other participant.

It was also noted that the technology could be used to create a single-person gaming experience. A scan of a single bowling pin could be used to create multiple objects projected in front of the user. These can then be knocked down with a virtual bowling ball using a physics simulation built into the system.

Currently the Kinect device only captures the front face of objects, leaving gaps and imperfect texturing, writes Edwin Kee for UberGizmo. The technicians suggested that this could be fixed by using additional cameras. The set-up also only allows users to scoop or catch objects from below in order to hold them in their hands.

“Simulating realistic grasping behaviors given depth camera input remains an open research problem,” the researchers admitted. “While we are still very far from an implementation of a working version of Star Trek´s Holodeck, MirageTable shows the potential of the projector/depth camera system to simulate such scenarios.”

Virtual bowling! Building blocks! The pace of technology can be dizzying sometimes, no?