Trekkies out there will certainly remember the holodeck – a room full of holograms (among other sci-fi accouterments) so realistic that you believe you really are in the virtual environment. (The same idea showed up in one of the X-Men films — which also starred Patrick Stewart. Hmmm…)
Further pushing the Xbox Kinect technology, Microsoft Research showed off a first step towards such a sci-fi fantasy. At Microsoft’s TechForum event last week, researchers demo’d a system called Beamatron (even the name is great) that superimposes video images in the real world.
This isn’t just shining a projector in the room. The Beamtaron uses a Kinect sensor to map out the contours of the room in 3D. It constantly adjusts the projected image so that it fits into the setting without being distorted. For example, they showed a projection of a racecar that moves around the room and retains its shape even as it passes over different surfaces, such as driving from the carpet and over someone’s shoes.
But it goes beyond that. Using a wireless Xbox controller, a researcher “drove” the car over a little ramp. And it appears to fly through the air, even dipping down, nose-first, as it returns to the ground.
For now, it looks like virtual Hot Wheels. But this is simply a demonstration that it works. Imagine a full-on battle with The Borg.