Microsoft Developing New 3D Desktop Interface Innovation

kinectdesk 616 Microsoft Developing New 3D Desktop Interface Innovation

Microsoft is working on next generation 3D desktop interfaces in its research labs that take a page right out of Minority Report. While mobile interfaces have been getting a lot of attention publicly lately, the desktop interface is also being evolved- note that Microsoft’s demo is on a laptop PC.

At Microsoft Research they are working on a transparent 3D desktop display that we think would not only change physical work layouts in workspaces but also impact ergonomics. The latest innovations place your hands behind the screen and the display gets much closer to your face. You can move images in 3D space with your hands and access files and other information. It’s not quite like Minority Report because you are not manipulating images in free space, but rather placing your hands behind a piece of hardware, but it’s along that path. The ability to move files and access content by simply moving your hands is intriguing and would push the boundaries of how we see and manipulate data, not to mention alter the creative process.

While today’s smartphones and tablets have touch-based interfaces, the 3D desktop is instead interaction-based and reminiscent of a marriage between the latest PC and display technology with Microsoft Kinect. Like Kinect, this technology uses cameras to track where your head is in space, to visualize the images so that they are in your visual field where they can be then be manipulated.

The system was developed by MIT PhD candidate Jinha Lee, who developed this innovation as a research project while interning at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, MA.

Obviously this research has a lot of potential in many fields. Imaging using it for gene sequencing, pharmaceutical development, prototype creation, robotics development or just accessing huge amounts data like during a crime scene investigation (a la Minority Report). It shows that innovation can happen even in a largely stagnant area such as desktop interfaces.

While there is clearly more development work needed — we’d like to see the ability to manipulate images in space as opposed to behind a piece of equipment, it is encouraging that what was once a pipe dream in a sci movie could be quite possible in the years ahead.

- Randy Giusto


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