The world’s first 3D see-through computer revealed at TED 2013

They say that much of our new technology is inspired by gadgets and premises set out in science fiction films such as The Minority Report. But the present and the future seem tantalisingly close, as a new 3D See-through computer was revealed today at the Technology, Education and Design (TED) conference in Los Angeles. TED fellow Jinha Lee has been working on a transparent computer that allows users to reach inside and touch digital content. The SpaceTop 3D desktop allows people to interact with machines in the same way they do with solid objects, and in an interview with the BBC, he stated how he thought this could make computing much more intuitive.

Preview Screen: Image via TED

Preview Screen: Image via TED

“The gap between what the designer thinks and what the computer can do is huge. If you can put your hands inside the computer and handle digital content you can express ideas more completely,” he said. Mr Lee has been working in collaboration with Microsoft, and thinks that it is possible for this type of computer to come into general use within a decade.

The way the system works is that it has a transparent LED display that includes built-in cameras, these then track the user’s gestures and eye movements. Mr Lee says that he was inspired to design this new technology by a very human characteristic of wanting to interact with things.

“Spatial memory, where the body intuitively remembers where things are, is a very human skill,” he said. “If you are working on a document you can pick it up and flip through it like a book,” he told the BBC.

Where there needs to be a more precise use of touch, and hand gestures are not sensitive enough, there will be the traditional kepboard.

Although this does seem to be a natural progression for computer technology, not everyone thinks this is the way forward. Designer Christian Brown commented in an interview with The Awl: “Human hands and fingers are good at feeling texture and detail, and good at gripping things – neither of which touch interfaces take advantage of. The real future of interfaces will take advantage of our natural abilities to tell the difference between textures, to use our hands to do things without looking at them.”

Mr Lee, who graduated from the esteemed US university – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is currently having to work on this new interface, whilst at the same time serving his military obligation in South Korea.

Jinha Lee at the TED Conference; Image via TED

Jinha Lee at the TED Conference; Image via TED

And as if he is not busy enough juggling these commitments, he showed that he has also had the time to work on other projects, such as ZeroN, a floating ball, which can literally be placed in midair. The ball uses electromagnetism to stay afloat and when coupled with software can be used for a variety of applications. Mr Lee thinks that it could be best used in schools.

“If kids are learning about planetary movement they can pick up a model of a planet and place it in orbit. That is tangible and makes the learning experience so much more powerful.”

For Mr Lee the ultimate goal is to unite the digital and physical worlds.

“I don’t want to look back on my life and find that I have just been typing on a keyboard,” he said. It is one of our key human skills to be able to interact with 3D spaces and I wanted to let people do the same with digital content. With the first computers there was a huge gap but that gap is getting smaller with things such as touchscreens,” he said.

“The only boundary left is our imagination.”

Source: BBC News