Microsoft Shows Off The MirageTable, A New Augmented Reality Device

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Just yesterday I talked about the SoundWave technology and how Microsoft could leverage that for close-up motion sensing, as an evolution of the existing method, using the Kinect.

Now I’m going to talk about yet another unique way that Microsoft is changing the way we interact with computers, people, and objects– this one is based on Kinect Technology. The new MirageTable is an augmented reality system that allows users at different locations to share an augmented table-space and even the objections on the table, using 3D technology and projection.

According to the developers at Microsoft, the device can fool the eye, using special glasses, and allow you to pick up and manipulate virtual copies of the real world object that another user lays down, or simply share completely 3D virtual objects. According to the team, it is still far from perfect and so isn’t marketable yet, but it’s a good step in the right direction.

The MirageTable uses a 3D-video projector to beam images onto a sheet of curved white plastic placed in front of the user, thus mirroring the table and making it seem like they are sharing a full-sized table together. Kinect depth camera sensors are then used to track direction of each person’s gaze, as well as capturing the shape and appearance of objects placed on the surface of the table.

While the project still has a very long ways to go before it is seamless and perfect, it has a lot of potential. Imagine playing a virtual bowling game by scanning just one pin and having several virtual pins show up at the other side of the table. Right now though, they can simulate objects but they still look very much like low-quality images, not real-life objects.

This is something that Microsoft will need to address if this is truly the way virtual and augmented reality is heading, but I’m confident that the time for that is not terribly far away.

Beyond bowling, I can see a lot of potential for this in both business and entertainment avenues. Need to meet up with your lawyer to look over some paperwork? No problem, go to your table, switch it on, and wait for him to log in. He can look at the paperwork, you can look at it and talk about it together.

Then it’s a matter of faxing it, and signing. Of course, you could do all that just over the phone, today, but what would be the fun in that? I’m sure there are many other great ways you could use this system, including entertainment ideas like playing a board game, such as Chess or Checkers, with a friend or family member half-way across the globe.

The MirageTable is only a small step in the direction of true augmented and virtual reality experiences, but I truly think we are almost there. Imagine what will happen once you can get together with your friends, without ever leaving the house. I suppose there are good and bad implications with that idea.

What do you think of the MirageTable? In general, how far are we away from virtual and/or augmented reality really playing a major role in day-to-day life?

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  • Dragonfarce

    Lol, ‘faxing it’. I don’t know about you but I haven’t needed a fax machine since they invented scanner and printer.
    Anyway, I think it’s all very clever but like with video phones it won’t catch on as long as you have to go to a special place and wear special glasses for it.