‘Star Trek’ in Real Life: Microsoft Develops New ‘Holodesk’

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Is the holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation on its way to becoming a reality? While we’re a long way from gunslinging across the virtual Old West, the research team over at Microsoft has developed something pretty impressive: the holodesk, which lets users manipulate holographic images with their hands.

The video pretty much sums up how cool this thing is. The Sensors and Devices group at Microsoft’s research lab in Cambridge figured out a way to use a screen, beam-splitter and webcam to create the illusion that you are moving around holographic boxes and balls. Microsoft’s Kinect also plays a big role, using face-tracking software to accurately identify where the user’s body is at all times.

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It works so well that you can even manipulate the holographic objects with real objects. Never before has picking something up with a piece of paper been so fun.

Right now it’s just in the research phase, but there are a number of practical applications for the device. Want a quick mockup for a proposed device? Just try out the virtual prototype and test it before committing resources to building it. Need to collaborate on a project with someone overseas? Now you can physically point out a flaw in a design or make adjustments in real-time.

Of course, the casual user is going to be interested in one thing only: games. Since Sega released its incredibly awkward arcade game Time Traveler back in 1991, consumers haven’t had much in the way of holographic entertainment. While the holodesk right now is limited to acts of virtual juggling, who knows where it’ll be in five or 10 years? My money is on a nationwide Dejarik craze.

[via The Next Web]

MORE: Is Apple Planning a Holographic 3D TV?

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