If you're tired of getting your hand slapped at the museum of holography whenever you try to reach out and touch a hologram, boy has your ship come in.
The Sensors and Devices group at Microsoft Research have developed HoloDesk, an innovative new system that lets users interact with 3D graphics. While rolling a virtual ping-pong ball around in a cereal bowl doesn't exactly sound thrilling, HoloDesk's technology could advance gaming, education, rehabilitation and design.
The system works like this: An overhead screen projects a two-dimensional image through a beamsplitter (aka a half silvered mirror) into a viewing booth in front of the user. A Kinect camera is used to track the user's hand movements while a webcam tracks facial movements. Combine this together with a few custom algorithms and here's what you get when you look through the transparent display window: an environment of 3D objects that can be manipulated with your hands.
Perhaps aspiring chainsaw or knife jugglers could use HoloDesk to practise on before they jump to the real thing. Have a look at the video and see what you think.