Microsoft has unveiled a revolutionary piece of kit that could transform the consumer electronic market over coming years. Using the new augmented reality system, consumers working in different locations would be able to collaborate on tabletop projects. The device, in essence, allows them to share objects that they can both handle.
The device, which is known as MirageTable, has been demonstrated at a conference in Austin, Texas. The firm also outlined details of the project on the firm's research site. The impressive system gives the illusion that the two parties are working together seamlessly. However, Microsoft researchers concede that even more work needs to be conducted before the kit can reach the consumer market.
Details of how the system works are provided on Microsoft's research site. The firm explained that using a 3D-video projector, consumers are able to beam images onto a sheet of curved white plastic. Thereafter, camera sensors are used to track the direction of each person's stare. They are also used to capture the shape and appearance of objects. And using shutter glasses, consumers are able to see the object in three dimensions, thereby rendering geographic boundaries obsolete for some people.
In a statement, the researchers said they were "motivated by a simple idea: can we enable the user to interact with 3D digital objects alongside real objects in the same physically realistic way and without wearing any additional trackers, gloves or gear".
Although the prospect of the MirageTable reaching the consumer market remains some way off, Microsoft researchers are optimistic about the future of the project.
"In our system, the user can hold a virtual object, move it, or knock it down, since all virtual and real objects participate in a real-world physics simulation," the research team said. "The unique benefit of this setup is that two users share not only the 3D image of each other, but also the tabletop task space in front of them."
However, the research team's positivity surrounding the project was tempered somewhat by the acknowledgement that simulating realistic grasping behaviours given depth camera input "remains an open research problem".