August 16th, 2007
I just returned from Siggraph 2007 a few days ago. It was a mixed collection of interesting technologies and ideas. As one would expect, the primary focus of the conference was computer graphics and related technologies, but I was primarily interested in the artistic exhibits and emerging display and interface technologies on display. Here’s a brief collection of a few that I found interesting.
To put it simply, Globe4D is kind of like a large trackball or an upside-down mouse with an additional optical sensor to measure rotation. Additionally, there is a turntable around the edge that allows users to explore another dimension such as time. The projection comes from overhead and seems to employ pretty simple OpenGL texture mapping onto a sphere. A very nice, responsive physical interface.
SEEN is an example of “kameraflage” (seen elsewhere here). This LED display is not visible unless one is looking through a digital camera or cell phone camera. This was also exhibited at 01/ISEA last year in San Jose, California. While interesting it kind of highlighted some some “digital divide” issues. What if people without digital camera technologies want to see the art?
BYU-BYU-View is a Wind Communication Interface. While it was quite large and cumbersome, the idea was nice. Wind sensors and blower fans are located just behind the permeable projection screen and allow the user to “blow” a gusty telematic embrace to the user on the other side.
“bogs” was an interesting interface. Essentially they were long silicon tendrils with pressure sensors in the bulbous ends. When squeezed these bulbous controllers sent signals to a rather absurd sound engine that sounded like lonely whales at sea. While the sounds weren’t as interesting, the tactility of the controllers was alluring.
This Light Field array had a very Star Wars feel to it. Essentially it is a hight speed projector that projects 2D point cloud data onto a high-speed spinning mirror system. The resolution and quality of the images was nice, but the flickering and flashing was a bit of a strain.
“The Orb” is a spinning 3D LED POV display. While it has a low resolution and would probably take your arm off if you get too close, the effect is quite nice.
This 3d Globe projection was appealing, but the brightness seemed to be an issue. One wonders how well it might be seen without its protective tent.
Now onto some multi-touch technologies.
MERL has been working on the Diamond Touch for quite some time. It was good to see this technology in person. Unlike many multi-touch solutions, MERL’s table keeps track of each finger’s owner. It is criticized for the overhead projection though. When asked about this, the salesman put an interesting spin on the “deficiency” by claiming that he actually preferred the projection on his hand because it helped him see exactly where the cursor was. Big fingers (as we know from the iPhone) make bad precision pointers. I’m not convinced, but he had an interesting point.
The Eon Reality Touchlight is a not so much a multi-touch screen as a gesture-based interface. Developed by Andy Wilson at Microsoft Research and licensed to Eon Reality, it uses two cameras to get a sense of the user’s hand position in three dimensions. As an added bonus the display employs the off-the-shelf NEC W610/615 extreme short throw projector. More detailed image can be found here.
The Diorama Table employed overhead vision tracking to create graphics that interacted with various physical objects on the surface. While many other tables have done the same, it employed the same NEC W610/615 projector, which enabled the table to sit very close to the ground.
I was also able to see the Microsoft Surface. It is well-designed and robust physical table, but for 4 cameras, I was largely underwhelmed by the tracking latency. I was most interested in the actual tactile texture of the surface itself. It had a bit more texture that mylar or drafting film, but was actually quite similar. More pictures here.
After all the technology, I found relief in the Automatic Confession Machine : “A Catholic Turing Test”.