A Team of Grad Students Have Turned a Desk Into an Interactive AR Keyboard Using Light Projections

Monday, 17 July 2017 - 3:42PM
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Monday, 17 July 2017 - 3:42PM
A Team of Grad Students Have Turned a Desk Into an Interactive AR Keyboard Using Light Projections
Image credit: Robert Xiao

Most of us are probably familiar with that scene from Minority Report where Tom Cruise cycles through a bunch of floating screens projected against a wall—it's probably the most memorable piece of sci-fi tech in the movie. Gesture-based interfaces are becoming more common these days —you may have even found yourself in a museum or similar setting and interacted with something similar—it's called projection mapping. This technology allows for projected displays on a surface to become interactive and touch-sensitive. Recently, researchers from Carnegie Mellon, the Future Interfaces Group, took this concept a step further by using projection to create an augmented reality (AR) experience on an average work desk.



The team has created a device—just a prototype—called Desktopography that combines a small projector, a depth sensor, and a computer. It is capable of projecting interactive displays onto any surface, and can be manipulated like any touch screen. All that a desk would need in order to be able to run the device is one light bulb socket, so if you have a desk lamp, you could theoretically turn your workspace into an AR experience. While it's not exactly the holodeck, it's still pretty cool.

Looking toward the future, Desktopography essentially allows us to access all the facilities of a computer without any device, on any surface, in virtually any capacity. Do you need a calculator? Why not project one onto your old mousepad (it's not doing much else these days). Do you need to pull up your email account and type out a quick message to your boss? Anywhere is fine—the wall, the floor, the back of your hand, etc.

While still a prototype, the team hopes to "break interaction out from our screens and our devices, where they're separated from reality, and a separate world, really … and try to merge those onto our environment," according to Robert Xiao, a graduate student and leader of the team. It's pretty clear that we interact with screens a lot—maybe too much. The Future Interfaces Group hopes that this device will, at the very least, allow people to become more grounded in reality.
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