Touch, Tilt 3-D Images Like You're Tony Stark

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The time is coming when we can bat around holographic images like Tony Stark did in Ironman 2. Only instead of holograms, they’re images generated with help from a fog machine.

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My last experience with a fog machine was when slap bracelets, Bryan Adams and the running man were all the rage. But computer scientists from the University of Bristol have turned that old-school tech into an interactive display with misty 3-D images that can be manipulated by multiple users.

The MisTable project, led by human-computer interaction professor Sriram Subramanian and postdoc Diego Martinez Plasencia, is a multi-touch tabletop system. On the bottom are an Antari fog machine, a reservoir and a distribution chamber. Fog screens, BenQ projectors and a Microsoft Kinect on the top generate the images, according to the video (below) of the working prototype.

MisTable’s foggy images — called “personal screens” — are both see-through and reach-through, the description said. That means you can tilt around a 3-D image of a house with your finger. Or you could pass your hand directly through the image to reach something else on the table. The creators envision this opening up new forms of collaboration.

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Subramanian and his colleagues from the Bristol Interaction and Graphics Group plan to present MisTable later this month at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Toronto. While MisTable’s images aren’t as sharp as the fictitious ones in Ironman 2, this fog machine setup is infinitely cooler than a middle school dance.

Photo: The MisTable gives users reach-through personal screens that can be manipulated in 3D. Credit: Bristol Interaction and Graphics Group, University of Bristol via YouTube

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