Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox 360 (coming to a PC near you) was an innovation; it took what the Nintendo Wii had done and made almost unlimited possibilities with a similar idea.
The one issue with Kinect is that you still need a TV. How perfect would a gesture controlled interface be if it was projected in thin air, a kind of hologram effect such as the one R2D2 from Star Wars was able to produce, with the added bonus of being able to manipulate what you are looking at!
That’s where Displair comes into it. Russian company Displair have been working on this very thing and have implemented a way of using gestures to control a display projected into the air.
The prototype device will definitely need improving on to get anywhere near the computer-generated scenes of Tom Cruise flipping through photos displayed in the air in Minority Report, but unlike the movie, Displair is real.
The company uses a stream of cold fog for the backing to project images onto and an infrared camera for gesture control. Whereas Kinect uses a motion camera and infrared depth sensors to detect oversized body movements, Displair solves a harder challenge of detecting and interpreting the finer movements of your hands.
Displair’s award-winning technology was developed in a student dormitory, has a 0.2 seconds lag time between gesture and reaction, compared to 0.1 second lag time of Kinect for Xbox 360. Kinect uses up to 1500 points in its multi-touch screen system with 1 cm accuracy.
The founder and CEO of Displair, Maxim Kamanin, believes that there are applications for the product in the advertisement and entertainment industries. For example, Russian Alma Group will use the technology in psychotherapy treatments, while Medical Group plans to set up an interactive terminal for its reception.
The device will not be cheap, and when manufactured in large quantities may cost between $4000 and $30 000. The company is capable of producing 40 to 140-inch screens, but it is currently looking for investors to help launch commercial production. About a year ago a project had been commended by the President of Russia Dimitry Medvedev, and has since then collected various awards, the latest being the Tech Innovations Award.
Displair is not alone in using the cold fog as a screen to project images but they appear to be far more advanced with the multi-touch technology. Fog Screen from Finland adds wow factor with its large air displays to the entertainment and retail industries.
Back to Displair however, which has managed to bootstrap its development efforts, supported only by small government grants, the largest one being $30 000. More funding is needed to spread Displair’s magic.
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