Touch a Hologram With Microsoft’s Holodesk

Maybe you can’t walk onto a full-scale Holodeck like the one on Star Trek, but Microsoft’s latest touch interface comes close, providing another advance for the company in the area of touch technology.

Microsoft’s Sensors and Devices group in Cambridge, England has combined a screen, a beam-splitter, and a webcam to give users the illusion they are moving 3-D holographic objects, such as balls and cubes.

The system, called the Holodesk, incorporates the same face-tracking camera and software as Xbox Kinect, enabling the system to identify where a user’s body is located and tracking movement enabling them to manipulate holographic forms by inserting their hands into the display area and looking through a screen.

Users can also pick up and interact with holographs with objects other than their hands, such as flipping a ball into a cup using a sheet of paper.

The Holodesk is the latest Microsoft innovation in the field of touch technology. Earlier this week, the company unveiled OmniTouch, wearable system that projects a usable touch screen onto any surface, including the human body.

The holographic system is still in the research phase, but potential applications could include creating immersive gaming interfaces; building and manipulating 3-D models for engineering, architecture or design; or assisting as a therapy tool for children and adults with special needs.

Holodesk is still just a working prototype, so it won’t be available to the public in the near term. Still, as Microsoft and others continue exploring far out advances, their discoveries may bring other, sci-fi touch-tech advances into future products.

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