Microsoft appears to have struck a mother lode in its research. Some days ago, we saw the excitement generated by OmniTouch, a shoulder-worn projection system that in effect converts almost any surface into a smartphone. Now comes news of the HoloDesk, an exciting new technology that promises to bridge the gap between what is real and what is virtual.
Although not much has been revealed about how this interface system works, the system looks like a filing cabinet with a viewing area. A combination of Kinect cameras, projectors and webcams keeps track of the user’s face and hands. Undoubtedly, there are lots of algorithms at work to calculate object size, colour, distances and so on. The demo video shows a user juggling virtual balls and stacking blocks on top of one another.
The big deal is that some of these objects appear to be holographic in nature. Also, some of the objects are very much real. With the HoloDesk, real people can pick up, move or even shoot virtual 3D objects. For instance, a holographic image of a ball can be “picked up” and put inside a real cup, whose existence and location the system recognizes.
All interactions between with the virtual and real objects are currently possible only inside the cabinet, under the glass. But in time, the form factor will surely improve. Although specific application of this technology in everyday use may still be some years away, it is quite conceivable that potential application areas could include training medical students on how to perform surgeries using a “virtual patient”.