The Future is Here: Holovision and PointGrab!

holovisionNothing spells future quite like a life-size hologram in your living room, does it? And much like flying cars and personal jetpacks (though these too are in development), holographics has been one promise that appears to be slow in materializing. However, thanks to the work of California-based company known as Provision, this promise is approaching reality.

Their invention is known as the  Holovision, a life-size holographic projector that uses what is called aerial or volumetric imaging – a way of producing 3D images without special glasses, lenses or slits. It uses a digital LCD screen and a concave mirror to produce the illusion of a 3D image floating outside the projector, and can produce clearer images without generating multiple views or causing dizziness or nausea.

holovision-0For some time now, Provision has been making 3D projectors as marketing tools, but is now running a Kickstarter campaign aimed at raising US$950,000 to fund the development of new technology for the projector, with hopes of unveiling it next year. Currently, the company’s largest projector can only produce an 18-in (45.7-cm) image, but the goal is to create one 6 feet (1.8 m) tall that projects 7 ft (2.1 m) from the screen and is visible within a 100-degree arc.

This will require developing new optics and a new light source. But once this is achieved, Provision plans to miniaturize the system to the size of a toaster for the game console market before expanding to applications in education, medicine, video conferencing and other fields. Just imagine, phone conversations or Skyping where you get to talk to a life-size representation of the person! I know one person who would be thrilled about this, though I imagine he’d want a bigger projector for himself…

ESB_emperorThe Kickstarter campaign runs through August 14 and the public debut of the system is scheduled for March, 2014. So far, the project has collected $13,112, a mere 1% of its total goal. However, they are just getting started, and have seven months to go. So if you’ve got money and want holographics to become a permanent part of gaming, teleconferencing and social media, invest now!

In a similar vein, gesture control, something that has also been explored heavily in science fiction, appears to be getting a boost as well. For those who do not own an Xbox Kinect or are unfamiliar with the technology (or just haven’t seen Minority Report), gesture control is essentially a motion capture technology that monitors a person’s movements and gestures as an interface.

minority-reportAnd it is companies like PointGrab that are looking to make this type of interface the norm for computing, relying on a technology known as Hybrid Action Recognition (HAR). Unlike previous gesture recognitions software, the company claims that the updated version that they recently launched is 98% accurate and takes advantage of numerous advances that will make the technology mainstream.

The biggest advance comes in the form of being able to tell the difference between intentional movement, such as putting your fingers to your lips to mute a TV or computer, and unintentional gestures, such as scratching your lip. In addition, PointGrab has updated its machine learning algorithms to accommodate more environmental factors, such as different lighting conditions and hand sizes, to improve accuracy.

gesture-controlAccording to Assaf Gad, vice president of marketing and product for PointGrab, its all about accommodation. And this is really just the beginning:

We don’t want to teach people how to interact with devices. The devices have to be smart enough to analyze the body language of user and act accordingly.

Based in Israel, PointGrab has been working on gesture recognition interfaces since 2008. Two other Israeli companies, Eyesight and Extreme Reality, are also developing gesture and body movement recognition software platforms that work with a variety of devices equipped with standard 2D cameras. In addition, Leap Motion just introduced a hardware controller for enabling gesture control, and Microsoft’s Xbox One will enable control of more than games with its updated Kinect technology.

eyeSight-3D-Gesture-ControlAnd according to Gad, this is really just the beginning. Soon gesture control will be integrated with other emerging technologies to create much more intelligent interfaces:

I see it as good sign that we are in the right place to change way people interact. In the near future, we’ll see more solutions that combine voice and gesture, as well as 3D.

An exciting prospect, and very futuristic! Now if only someone would get on those damn flying cars already. It’s the 21st century, we were promised flying cars! And be sure to enjoy this video of the PointGrab software in action:


Sources: dvice.com, news.cnet, kickstarter.com

More Future Phones

Paper-Thin-Pamphlet-Smartphone-Concept-2The last decade has seen some real interesting developments in the field of digital technology and telecommunications. Perhaps too interesting! When one considers the kind of over-saturation  that has taken place with smartphones in recent years, not to mention the cavalcade of proposed concepts that are expected to take the field in the next few, one could get the impression that were moving too fast.

But that’s the nature of technological progress, it’s an iterative process that’s subject to acceleration. And of course, just because we’re being bombarded with countless proposals doesn’t mean they are all going to come true.  But what is clear is that the smartphones of the next generation are going to have a few things in common.

For example, flexible concepts are likely to be all the rage, as are touchscreens which have become the current mainstay. In addition, the phones are likely to be miniaturized even farther, some to the point of being paper thin and even collapsible. Transparencies are also a common concept, as are holographics and the ability to morph into other shapes.

In the end, its an open sea, and people will be free to pitch any and all combinations of these basic ideas. And there’s no telling which one’s will catch on and which one’s won’t. But one thing is clear. The end results are likely to be mighty cool and are sure to complicate our lives much, much more! And here are just some of the proposed concepts that are we likely to be seeing in the next few years…

Cobalto:
cobalto_phoneMac Funamizu’s “Cobalto” has taken the cell phone concept way into the future, with an almost all-glass design. The phone would feature 3D imaging that could make Google Maps even more useful, as demonstrated here.

Dial:
dial_phoneJung Dae Hoon’s “Dial” concept takes the rotary phone of the ‘good ol’ days’ and combines it with mobile technology and modern jewelry sensibilities.


Kambala:

kambalaA pop-up phone! Ilshat Garipov’s “Kambala” is a fascinating concept that features a center piece that can pop out to fit into your ear, making it an earphone. In theory, it will also have the ability to match your skin tone, rendering it almost invisible.

The Leaf:
leaf_phoneAnastasia Zharkova’s organic “Leaf Phone” melds aesthetic creativity with functionality. The winding stem of the leaves could be wrapped around a user’s arm, wrist, neck, or other body part.

Mobile Script:
mobile_scriptAleksander Mukomelov’s “Mobile Script” phone starts with a stylish and sleek small screen, then reveals a larger touchscreen hidden within the phone’s body to meet all of your media device needs.

Morph:
morph_phoneNokia’s “Morph” phone uses nanotechnology to create a flexible body and transparent screen that can be molded to whatever shape is the most convenient for its user. The nanotech could even clean itself.

Packet:
packet_phoneEmir Rifat’s “Packet” phone won first place at the Istanbul Design Week 2007. The tiny phone starts off at 5 cm square, then folds out as needed for different functions.

Pebble:
pebble_phoneAt first glance, this entrant into Fujitsu’s cell phone design contest looks like an ordinary paperweight. Actually, it’s a cleverly disguised phone. As the picture shows, the small black dot can be transformed into a keypad, media panel or web browser depending on what corner of the plastic handset you drag it to.

Sticker Phone:
sticker_phoneLiu Hsiang-Ling’s “Sticker Phone” has a solar panel on the back of the phone and a curved surface that will allow it to stick to a window via suction to charge. Plus, you won’t lose your phone somewhere on your desk.

Visual Sound:
visual_soundSuhyun Kim’s stylish “Visual Sound” voice-to-text concept phone for deaf people is a huge step from current systems like teletypewriters.

Window Phone:
window_phoneDesigned by Seunghan Song, this “window phone” concept will reflect current weather conditions on the screen. To input text, you just blow on the screen to switch modes, then write with your finger as a stylus.

Source: Huffington Post.com

The Future is Here: The Microsoft 3D “Holodesk”!

holodeskHang onto your hats! Of all the future concept videos to be produced by high tech firms of late, this one has the potential of being the most badass! It is known as the Holodesk, a prototype system that allows users to interface with a computer by seemingly manipulating 3D objects with their hands. The result of ongoing research over at the Sensors and Devices group at Microsoft Research Cambridge, the Holodesk is one of several 3-D based concepts that are expected to take to the field in coming years.

According to Microsoft website, the group has “the goal of understanding how advances in technology will impact traditional computing and the ways in which people use and interact with computing devices.” Using technology adapted from their popular and award-winning Kinect gaming system, Microsoft has developed this new device which it believes will fill a niche market in computing.

holodesk1Amongs them are physics students, who will use this system as a possible “playground” to test hypothesis involving subatomic particles and atomic models. It is also believed it will be useful for people who conduct remote collaborative studies from long distances, and to test out 3-D models of various kinds. TechNet blog even had one suggestion on one of its comment boards where a user claimed it could be slowed down so that he or she could learn how to juggle.

Per the MicrosoftResearch Youtube channel, the Holodesk is described as follows:

HoloDesk is a novel interactive system combining an optical see through display and Kinect camera to create the illusion that users are directly interacting with 3D graphics. A virtual image of a 3D scene is rendered through a half silvered mirror and spatially aligned with the real-world for the viewer. Users easily reach into an interaction volume displaying the virtual image. This allows the user to literally get their hands into the virtual display. A novel real-time algorithm for representing hands and other physical objects, which are sensed by the Kinect inside this volume, allows physically realistic interaction between real and virtual 3D objects.”

Check out the video of the Holodesk in action:

The Future is Here: Flexible Displays!

It’s like something out of a Neal Stephenson novel, or possibly movies like Minority Report or Red Planet. A display which you can not only morph and twist, but which is barely thicker than a piece of paper. Yes, some pretty impressive developments have been making the rounds in the world of displays of late, most of which are coming to an electronics store near you!

Many of these products were displayed last year at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Samsung unveiled its revolutionary new AMOLED display on a number of items. AMOLED, which stands for active-matrix organic light-emitting diode, is a process where organic compounds are used to form the electroluminescent material while an active matrix takes care of pixelation and display.

The result is a display that can be twisted and shaped without fear of breaking the display, or ruining the picture quality. At CES, many of the displays came on hand-held devices, all of which boasted displays that were almost paper-thin and could be bent, hammered, and still maintain their picture. Check out the video below to see a few such items on display, which have since become commercially available, at least in some discerning sectors of the market.


But what is really exciting about this news is that it is not reserved to any one company. During 2011, virtually all technology firms with a hand in portable devices, laptops and tablets had their own ideas on new-age flexible displays that utilized AMOLED technology. Nokia has its own concept for the “Kinetic Device”, which it demonstrated at the Nokia World Conference in London this past September. This flexible phone is controlled not by touching the screen, but by manipulating the body itself. Check out this video of a demo of the Kinetic running Windows Phone OS.


Megagiants Sony, 3M and Microsoft are also on board, producing videos of products that are under development that utilize holographic technology, bendable displays, and all kinds of neat and futuristic concepts to produce the next great leap in gaming, personal computing, and communications. After viewing the majority of them, it seems clear that the future envisioned here will involve ultra-light, transparent devices that are extremely portable and merged with items we were on our person in the course of everyday life.

We can also expect things like windows and panes of glass to carry displays and interfaces as well, allowing people to get directions and access public databases just about anywhere. Consider the following video as an example of what’s in store. Not to left behind in the speculative department, Samsung produced this video of what they felt the future of tablets would look like:


You know the old saying, the truth is stranger than fiction? Well in this case, it seems the truth is catching up to the fiction. It’s nice when that happens, even if it comes a little bit later than expected. Now if someone would just invent a damn flying car already, we’d be in business!

Source: Huffington Post Tech