There’s a neat video from Microsoft’s Techfest (Link) demonstrating some transreality technology that’s worth a peek. There are two parts to the video. The first is called “surface computing” and that basically deals with making commonplace surfaces “live”. The demo for one example of this shows a regular table top with some construction paper formed shapes sitting beneath an infra-red camera setup which is used to derive a heightmap. This information is then ported into a racing videogame where digital cars drive over representations of the shapes. The computer cars are themselves then projected onto the tabletop as they move. Everything is “live”, so if someone sticks their hand into the scene and moves the paper around, the videogame environment is modified in real time as well.
The second demo is for something called “Play Together” and uses essentially the same optical technology setup to do things like show how two people in different locations can, for example, draw simulataneously on their individual sheets of paper but see results of the collaborative effort at the same time. This would be a nice tool for industrial designers separated by half a world. The researcher’s comment about capturing gestures was exactly right (it’s not always obvious where someone is placing emphasis in a rough concept sketch; faxes and scanned images in emails sometimes lose that quality).