Virtual reality is still a ways off, and you can forget about a Holodeck – you know, from the TV show “Star Trek the Next Generation” – coming to frution any time soon. But wedged somewhere in between both of those pieces of tech, a sort of mash up, is Microsoft’s HoloDesk.
As the name suggests it projects images onto a piece of glass and allows users hands to interact with the objects as if they were real. The feat is accomplished using a webcam, which tracks the user’s face and the direction they’re looking (this changes the perspective of the objects accordingly), a Kinect to detect movements and an overhead screen which projects an image down through a “half silvered beam splitter”.
While the images are anything but real, the ability to manipulate them is damn compelling. Objects can be rolled, stacked, thrown back and forth between two hands and even manipulated using other objects such as a cup or piece of paper.
Unfortunately, this is a Microsoft Research project, so the chances of it ending up in your home or pretty slim. But if we learned anything from Microsoft’s Surface, you can probably expect a commercially available version in about 10 years where upon it will cost $10,000.