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Sci-fi projections

Systems create images on glass, in thin air

March 22, 2007

The Heliodisplay from IO2 Technologies can project computer-based images onto thin particles of moisture. The airborne film of moisture generated by the device - the  black box with the large slot pictured in the foreground - captures the light from the projector to allow the images to take shape. Shown here, the laptop in the background is running a video of a woman on a cellphone, while the Heliodisplay simultaneously turns it into an image that appears to be floating in thin air. The Heliodisplay from IO2 Technologies can project computer-based images onto thin particles of moisture. The airborne film of moisture generated by the device — the black box with the large slot pictured in the foreground — captures the light from the projector to allow the images to take shape. Shown here, the laptop in the background is running a video of a woman on a cellphone, while the Heliodisplay simultaneously turns it into an image that appears to be floating in thin air.

Free floating images in thin air that you can move with your hands, windows that morph into touchscreen displays for passersby — welcome to the new world of projection applications that are literally opening up a new window to the world.

Next generation presentation technologies are now delivering a bona fide interactive experience on anything from solid glass to airborne vapour. And all it takes is a projection system, some cool presentation software, a set of infrared sensors and a few complex algorithms to make it happen.

As with a lot of the high-tech "fun stuff" these days, much of the innovation in this area is coming out of Asia, says Chris Synn, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Innotive Inc., a developer of interactive presentation software. Innotive's touch-enabled technology, developed in South Korea, is just one example of the types of systems pushing the boundaries of old and familiar interactive display applications.

With the lightest of touches, users can grab and shuffle images around, zoom in and out to see the minutest of details, or simply wave their hands over an image to make it come alive on screens as large as 100 inches or 254 centimetres. "Instead of a stylus you just use your finger to interact," explained Synn.

Adding a touch of interactivity to screens

Since the interface can work with projection technology, retailers can actually turn an entire display window into a screen — and that, said Synn, is where the wow factor comes into play. "Once people try to interact with it, it's breathtaking. Navigation is so fluid."

Toronto-based media specialist Optiadmedia is heading in this "window to the world" direction with its Window F/X offering, a through-glass storefront multimedia projection technology that was developed in Asia. It all works like a floating screen that can run content of all shapes and sizes on store windows or other clear display formats.

Window F/X combines a rear projection system with a near invisible film that is applied to the window to allow light to be captured to display images. It can be programmed to run any kind of digital content, including animated footage and still images. Optional touchscreen features allow passersby to browse catalogues and surf the internet. Window F/X also has the potential to incorporate audio and Bluetooth wireless capabilities into such things as store-window displays.

The Heliodisplay from IO2 Technologies can project any kind of static or moving image, from photographs to movies, without the need for a solid screen. Pictured here, an arrow icon appears suspended in the air in front of a person's hand. The Heliodisplay from IO2 Technologies can project any kind of static or moving image, from photographs to movies, without the need for a solid screen. Pictured here, an arrow icon appears suspended in the air in front of a person's hand.

Optiadmedia partner Michael Dellios is working on new ways to harness this emerging medium, which was launched into the commercial market in the latter part of 2006. "It puts a new spin on the term window shopping. It's starting to be used a lot for event promotion, because it can be used on portable screen — it's very eye catching."

The Nestings Kids junior home store at Eglinton and Avenue Road in Toronto is among the first to explore the Window F/X experience for its display window, said company owner and president Lisa Rosen. The store's new 46 cm by 61cm translucent screen offers rotating images of products, as well as animations — like snowflakes falling or vintage children's shows to catch the interest of passing shoppers.

"It's great because it doesn't interfere with what we're doing with our window displays, and it makes our products more accessible," Rosen said. "It's just a fun way to get attention. As soon as it was up and running at night, we got calls from people saying how great it was."

Rosen hasn't made the leap to an interactive program for the system yet, but that may come, she said. "That's the fun thing about it all. It's a true idea of what window shopping could be in the future."

Images in thin air

A person uses their hand to manipulate the ghostly, floating image of a digital camera, projected by an IO2 Technologies Heliodisplay. The display has optional motion sensors that let people move computer-generated images around with their fingers. A person uses their hand to manipulate the ghostly, floating image of a digital camera, projected by an IO2 Technologies Heliodisplay. The display has optional motion sensors that let people move computer-generated images around with their fingers.
The future has even more interesting possibilities for Chad Dyner, a San Francisco-based developer and founder of IO2 Technologies. He's the creator of Heliodisplay, a projection technology that works with suspended particles of moisture that can create an interactive display experience literally out of thin air.

Heliodisplay projects computer-based images onto thin particles of moisture generated by a particulate emitting device. The moisture film generated by the device captures the light from the projector to allow the images to take shape.

Heliodisplay can project any kind of static or moving images, from photographs to movies. The piece de resistance — or added "wow" factor if you will — is an optional interactive capability that uses motion sensors to let people move images around with their fingers.

So far, commercial applications have included venues such as museums, trade shows and special events, and Dyner is the first to admit that his innovation is still in its developmental stages. Work is still being done to perfect content and image delivery.

"It's not a mainstream product by any means," he said. "But I definitely think it's the future. I believe we'll start to see more ways to have unobtrusive displays and new ways to interact with information. What we use now is from a previous era."

"This type of thing is not just a novelty item," noted Synn. "You can make it interactive. You can update content. It's all free form so you can do so much with it. It's all pretty cool stuff."

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External Links

Innotive
IO2 Technology
Optiadmedia

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