Microsoft shows off a “holodesk” whose 3d environment you can manipulate with your hands. Add quantum levitation to make solid holo-objects move through space–revealed in a stunning video below–and a holodeck starts to look a lot less like Star Trek and a lot more like somebody’s research lab.


[Link (via NMD alumnus Neil Shelley)]

Microsoft’s Holodesk combines a Kinect sensor and a beam-splitter to create a virtual 3D environment that you can manipulate with your hands. The concept is simple enough: a top-mounted projector displays an image downward towards a work area, and a piece of half-silvered glass sends that image towards your eyeballs while still allowing you to see what’s going on. Placing your hands inside the work area lets the Kinect sensor see what you’re doing, and the display dynamically updates to let you virtually interact with objects that aren’t really there.

The key to the whole system is a webcam that tracks the location of your head and eyes to make sure that the orientation of the projection stays constant. This means that you can move your head around and get slightly different angles on things without losing the synchronization between your hands and the virtual objects inside the display. The system works with real objects, too: anything you put inside the display gets incorporated into the simulation thanks to the Kinect sensor.

One of the reader comments in this article implies it can’t be a real Holodeck because we don’t have Star Trek-style force fields to create physical feedback.

Well, maybe he doesn’t have the ability to levitate solid objects through space, but this lab in Tel-Aviv does:

Researchers from Tel-Aviv University recently showed off their Quantum Levitation project at the ASTC Annual Conference, and the performance is simply stunning. The group coated a thin superconductor layer on a sapphire wafer which is then penetrated by discrete flux tubes. The superconductor strongly pins these tubes, allowing the wafer to float, or achieve “quantum levitation.”

The coolest part of the demo is when the wafer is set on a track and propelled smoothly around it, floating in midair, while mist trails behind it!

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