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Microsoft Technology

"Holographic" Desk Allows Interaction With Virtual Objects 85

Zibodiz writes "The Sensors and Devices group at Microsoft Research has developed a new system called HoloDesk that allows users to pick up, move and even shoot virtual 3D objects. It's about the size of a filing cabinet and is made up of an overhead screen that projects a 2D image through a half-silvered beam splitter into a viewing area beneath. A Kinect camera keeps tabs on a user's hand position within the 3D virtual environment, a webcam tracks the user's face to help with placement accuracy, and custom algorithms bring everything together in (something very close to) real time."

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"Holographic" Desk Allows Interaction With Virtual Objects

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  • Doesn't Paramount own the trademark on HoloDeck? And would this be too close for comfort?
    • First they would have to prove that people are confused by the name and mix it up with a product produced by Star Fleet.

      I don't think anyone will make the honest mistake of thinking this product was produced by a 25th century institution.

      However, I'm sure if Apple were to buy Paramount they would sue anyway. Especially if this device has rounded corners, an on/off switch, or limited buttons.

      • by jkirch ( 2224694 )
        As far as lawsuits are concerned, I'm more worried about someone giving Picard access to one of these, a 1920's bar simulation and a machine gun. Is it still assault with a deadly weapon if it's virtual?
      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
        And can be photoshopped to be the same size as one of their products.
      • by pluther ( 647209 )

        I don't think anyone will make the honest mistake of thinking this product was produced by a 25th century institution.

        I think you overestimate people's average intelligence...

      • 24th :P

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      Trademark? It would be hard to defend a trademark of something that doesn't exist, much less hasn't ever been traded. When they start selling holo-decks maybe they will have a case. Now copyright, on the other hand, might be a problem.
    • Google didn't think twice about naming their failed messaging service Wave in reference to the communications in Firefly. Of course, I'm not sure which lasted longer - Google Wave or Firefly. Maybe there'll be a movie.

    • D. Gabor and Denisuk would be sad about this incorrect usage of "holography" in the summary..

  • Point Cloud ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @01:52PM (#37846542)

    I'm surprised they are using a point cloud and not a mesh for the tracking? That would explain why the physics seems a little unstable / jumpy when the ball floats around on the book.

    Cool prototype -- will be real interesting to see what kind of applications get developed once this tech is cheap enough where every home has one.

    • Re:Point Cloud ? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by derGoldstein ( 1494129 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @02:18PM (#37846854) Homepage
      This is a shot in the dark, but: interacting meshes would involve specific collision detection between surfaces, which (when scanning an object in real time) could lead to locked models (the virtual object could "stick" to you, or other objects). A particle system allows them to define "particles repel each other" and get around that problem. Notice how (relatively) large the particles themselves are -- I'm guessing it can only deal with a limited amount of particles within the environment at the same time.
      (and yes, I realize that the size of the particles you see doesn't necessarily mean that this is what the program is doing, but the number of particles probably is)
    • by nomel ( 244635 )

      Nice point! But, I imagine it comes from plug in solution that the kinect is. Why would they want to make a custom solution? JUST KIDDING! Although, this seems to be the modern mindset, which is perfectly fine for interesting idea creation.

      Call me unimaginative, but I picture vr glasses as becoming cheaper before something the size of a cabinet does.

      • The two aren't mutually exclusive. Certainly, the glasses will be cheaper and easier to produce, but even if you create a surface like that which is only a single "slab", there will still be scenarios where there's just no room, and the glasses will be the only option.
        Of course, it's possible that someday you could get the same effect with a pico-projector, but doing the 3D scanning *and* 3D projecting from a single point really is sci-fi, for now.
  • Oooh, I can't wait to play "Operation" on one of these!

  • Sure sounds like rebirth of MS Bob. MS never lets old code go to waste, wait long enough the idea will come around again.

  • The graphics on the display really look like the stuff from Star Wars (original trilogy) where the chess pieces attack each and kill each other
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @02:02PM (#37846658)

    I worked for the Electronics Visualization Laboratory, back in the late 90's. We developed a similar system called PARIS,some time around 1998.

  • I have a handful of virtual papers I need to staple and someone stole my virtual stapler. Well, I better check the virtual drawer for a virtual paper clip.
  • I am working on a system that lets you manipulate objects on a desktop, but contains both 3D objects and immediate and realistic tactile sensation.

    The best part is the objects are completely functional. For instance, I have a pencil object right now that will write on a paper object and dull itself over time. It is realistically modeled in wood.

    I've also implemented drawers which can be used to organize and store the objects for later retrieval, as well as a rudimentary file system.

    I'm not entirely sure wha

    • Yeah, and could you do a fully interactive read of an MRI with one of those? Would be very useful to push and prod and turn 3D scans, and peel away layers. There's plenty more applications.

      • I think it is unrealistic to expect a wooden desk to process MRI images when the human brain itself is often incapable of processing a "joke."

  • Now we're talking.

  • Have the Slashdot story logos gone banal all of a sudden?

    What happened to The Borg Gates?

    Even the story about Gates's reinvention of the toilet [] uses some boring stock photo.

  • Just imagine: virtual hand-washing dishes, virtual weed pulling, virtual pebble sorting.
    The video-game possibilities are endless!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm going through the Organic Chemistry sequence in college right now and I find the one of the most difficult ideas to present to students (myself and my classmates) is the 3D spatial arrangement of molecules.

    If the professor had access to one of these Holodesks during a lecture he could rotate enantiomers as well as perform reactions in real time which could be a huge boon for anyone having trouble with regiochemistry.

  • Lose the Borg logo?

  • Sorry (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
    I fail to see the practical applications of this. I mean yeah, instead of relying on sensors that are orders of magnitude more sensitive or precise than the human hand, let's re-create a virtual world with a bad physics system and let people use their extremely low resolution hands to do things that they could do for real with real objects. I mean short of being a toy, what is the point?
    • Re:Sorry (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JMZero ( 449047 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:12PM (#37849072) Homepage

      instead of relying on sensors that are orders of magnitude more sensitive or precise than the human hand

      The hand isn't a sensor at all in this context; rather, the manipulations of the hand are picked up by distinctly non-hand sensors. It's clear the current limit on this system is those sensors, computers, and software - all of which could improve quickly if this moved beyond research.

      extremely low resolution hands

      My hands have, uh... pretty high resolution. Are your hands kind of blocky? Do they show aliasing when you turn them? More to the point, humans are extremely adept at doing fine manipulation with their hands and these manipulations are extremely intuitive. If they could make this work very well, I see no reason it couldn't be used for a bunch of things: teaching and demonstrating, as an intuitive UI for controlling robots (that might actually be acting on smaller or larger or toxic or distant objects in real life), or for experimenting with possible approaches or designs.

      It doesn't take much imagination to come up with possible applications for this.

      That said, probably it will never come to anything (at least not in a similar form) or not for a while. But if you disapprove because you fail to see practical applications now, I think you're both wrong (in this case) and misguided (in the general case). I think it's cool MS is doing research that they probably can't exploit immediately. It shows foresight to be thinking about interface methods before they're really practical. Nintendo (or whoever they bought tech from) probably had some very crappy Wii-like peripherals in research long before they worked well enough to sell. It might take 100 ideas and prototypes like this to find 1 that is the next big thing. But that's how we get cool new stuff.

      Disregarding all that, even if it was completely pointless (and I don't think it is) I think it's fun that we can see it and discuss it on a site that is about interesting technology.

      I mean short of being a toy, what is the point?

      Do you mean "beyond being a toy"? If so, you said the exact opposite thing. Or do you not think this would fall short of working as a toy? Because it seems to me like it works as a toy right now.

  • Like Surface... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 )'ll see it in demos and as a prop for TV series but it'll never be something you can actually buy. It's just M$ egoware. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  • Seriously, bring back that thing.

  • Did anyone else misread that as holodeck, not desk? Way to get my hopes up summary.
  • This kind of technology will completely change the marketplace.

    If these get cheap enough that you can put one of these in your house, it would give you the ability to handle a virtual version of whatever item you wanted to buy... before you bought it! If these machines were accurate and sensitive enough (and had the computational power) you could even interact with a virtual version of say, a mobile phone. You wouldn't be able to actually "feel" anything you you were handling, but it sure beats the hell o
  • and visualize the thunderstorm right there on the edge of my desktop, as it as it lurches towards Virginia.

  • So, I can use this to throw virtual chairs?

  • It's bad enough that some people only eat salads, but now virtual salads! I can just feel the weight melting off!
  • In this day and age, why do they always upload this in some shitty lowres version recorded on someones Nokia phone from 1998?

    1080p people!

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis