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Video Screen in Thin Air 232

Agent Provocateur writes "CNN has a story about inventions in advanced computer displays -- eliminating the screen altogether."Ever since the movie 'Star Wars' came out and there was a distress call from Princess Leia," -- generated in thin air by the robot R2D2 -- "people all over the world have been wanting one of these." While unlikely to replace the desktop computer monitor, so-called walk-through displays could eventually be put to use in product showrooms and museums."
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Video Screen in Thin Air

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  • Holodeck! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Brahmastra ( 685988 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:27AM (#6975036)
    Hope this develops ultimately into a holodeck. Playing quake in a holodeck will be a lot more fun
    • by pe1rxq ( 141710 )
      Until somebody overrides the safety protocols and you are blasted into the hot fog pool by a fog rocket :)

    • Yeah, especially if it's truly lethal. Then those of us with combat arms training will have a leg up on you keyboard cowboys. :-)
    • Eh, yes.. But going from projecting a picture on fog, to actually creating touchable, real objects (the Holodeck is another application of the technology used in transporters) is quite a step!

      I agree, it would be nice, though! :)
    • Re:Holodeck! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by narratorDan ( 137402 )
      Not even close to Holodeck technology. The holodeck actually creates objects for its user to interact with using the same energy matter system that the transporter system moves objects from ship to planet and back. The only real difference between the two systems is that the transporter begins with matter then transforms it into energy which is then transmitted to a remote location for reconstruction, while the holodeck begins with energy which is configured in an "image matrix" to create the object with
      • so you're a virgin, then?
      • The TNG tech manual has a whole chapter on the holodeck - it uses a close relative of the replicators on board to make items that need to be interacted with or removed from the Holodeck, but for terrain, surroundings, and most objects, the Holodeck creates a photorealistic hologram, which is then given "solidity" by the careful use of aimed force/tractor beams. That's why you can have an apparently infinite world inside the deck - you're standing on a forcefield "treadmill" that moves as you do. God, I'm so
        • So how does the doctor get kidnapped and placed in one building while others are still in the street (as seen in the episode with Moriarty). The holodeck appears to be only 30 feet in the longest direction. Simulating distance between two real objects must heat up the ol' processors on the holodeck computer while trying to generate a forced perspective to create the illusion of distance. And create such perspective from multiple viewpoints for each of the other real people in the holodeck.

          I'm a big fan of
          • Well, the Enterprise has more than enough computing power - there's three 12-deck high faster-than-light optical computer banks (of course it's pure sci-fi); the holodeck is also noted as being "computationally intensive". Wonder if it can handle Doom MMMMCCLXIII?
          • I'm a big fan of Star Trek, but the holodeck is still simply science fiction to me.
            Same here.

            But given that the people of the Enterprise can project force over a distance (either to generate interia against an object, or simply emit visible light), then the holodeck becomes a simple problem of software engineering. (Those two capabilities are trivial in comparison to the "shields" and "transporter" they already had)

            Upon entering, each user is shuffled off to a corner by forcefields under his feet, so th
      • The holodeck actually creates objects for its user to interact

        If that were true, those objects would persist after being removed from the holodeck. But they always fade out at the doorway. For contrast, look at the beverage dispensers the crew uses- those objects are created by a transporter-like effect, and they are real matter.

        Check out StNG episode 29, "Elementary, Dear Data" this covers some of the specs of the holodeck

        If you paid attention to that episode, you'd see holodeck characters lingeri
    • Except then players would have to be... y'know... in shape. When was the last time you saw a computer game player built like a special forces operative?
  • How? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:29AM (#6975058) Homepage Journal

    The machine modifies the air above a video projector

    That tantalizing bit of information is all that is said about how it works. Does anyone know if it shoots a thin mist or fog to project the image on? One would imagine so, so using one of these displays in a room with active ventilation may screw up the image as the fog is blown around.
    • Backprojected mist (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You can clearly see the mist curtain on the edges of these videos [] linked from Google cache (esp. on the rotating planet video). You can also make out some distortion that hints at the nature of the oblique projection system. In this prototype, it seems as though the projection might come from the left of the screen. Also see US patent #6478432 [uspto.gov].
    • Re:How? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by electromaggot ( 597134 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @11:29AM (#6975708)
      The article mentions two technologies. One is the fog screen (as seen at SIGGRAPH), where the fog unit hangs from the ceiling and its clearly-visible vapor flows downward.

      This other technology seems to involve a "sit on your desk" unit, out of which some kind of vapor appears to blow upwards. They have three videos showing this on their website (IO2 Technology [io2technology.com]) although it's light on technical specifics. The vids are filmed from in front of the unit, which seems to have a more extensive projection system hiding back behind it -- which as the guy moves his hand into the image, you can see projecting bright light up onto his arm. The "sheet" of vapor is surprisingly transparent, but you can notice its "laminar flow" being disrupted by his hand movement.

      I, too, have my questions: What the vapor is and if it's toxic or messy... and how he'll do 3D (which is implied as being the next step) because the technology I see is basically a 2D "screen" and a long way from 3D.
    • Re:How? (Score:3, Informative)

      Does anyone know if it shoots a thin mist or fog to project the image on?

      Obviously, you want to convert the air to form a mirror of some sort to form a superior mirage effect [islandnet.com]. So, the simplest solution would be to implement some cooling system to create the cool air layer, and use the heat of the projector to create the warm air layer. Once you have this boundary layer, you should have an air mirror and maybe a holographic image.
  • star vars (Score:3, Funny)

    by userloser ( 707754 ) <dan AT staticwaves DOT co DOT uk> on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:29AM (#6975065) Homepage
    "help me 'tech support' you're my only hope..."
  • Fantasmic! (Score:3, Informative)

    by inertia@yahoo.com ( 156602 ) * on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:29AM (#6975066) Homepage Journal
    That's like Fantasmic! [wdwig.com] where they project cartoon clips onto a couple fountains. Those aren't 3D, but they're impressive.
  • by kaltkalt ( 620110 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:29AM (#6975071)
    Prepare to have floating, 3D advertisements everywhere you fucking look.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      they are called billboards and they are "floating" nearly eveywhere you fucking look.
    • Imagine the uses for advertising in a city's red light district.
    • Fry: So you're telling me they broadcast commercials into people's dreams?

      Leela: Of course.

      Fry: But, how is that possible?

      Farnsworth: It's very simple. The ad gets into your brain just like this liquid gets into this egg. [He holds up an egg and injects it with liquid. The egg explodes.] Although in reality it's not liquid, but gamma radiation.

      Fry: That's awful. It's like brainwashing.

      Leela: Didn't you have ads in the 20th century?

      Fry: Well sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio. And in mag
    • Researchers say the heliodisplay can be used to interact with images of movie stars and others.
      Yeah, "others".
  • by sixteenraisins ( 67316 ) <william.purpleandblack@com> on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:30AM (#6975074) Homepage
    If these 3-D "images" can be manipulated by hand, this technology becomes infintely more valuable - after all, some cheesy videogames were using 3-D holo-type displays back in the 80's, but without the hand-manipulation ability.

    I can see this being used for training surgeons, bomb squads, etc. - any type of high risk sort of profession where learning on a "screen" you can manipulate with your hands either poses a threat or isn't something you can easily reproduce in situ.

    • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @11:22AM (#6975626) Journal
      I don't think this will be useful for surgeons. We learn the best way possible - you stick your hands right into the action (under the guidance of the attending surgeon, of course).

      It's only a 2D image anyway, and it appears to me that it's main difference is that it doesn't need a screen. There is no surgeon in the world that I know of, that would obscure the surgical field with yet another thing to block their vision. So if applicable to learning surgery, it would have to be in a non-operative setting, and so not having a screen isn't very important at all.

      There are many other things of much more importance to a budding surgeon - such as the organ texture, learning how to suture, trying to identify the diseased thing that you're holding in your hand, how things behave, etc. No one in the surgical field will bother with this, I don't think I would and I love computers/gadgets. Sorry.

    • They can be. Have a look at the video's on i02something's site (links in posts above). Cool stuff.
    • I've often thought about how well these simulators work. My guess is not as well as they should. I'm thinking of a video I've seen where a Boeing Jet was involved in a large scale crash test in the desert.

      The documentary that I've seen says that the plane was supposed to land correctly (without landing gear) and simulate a crashlanding without landing gear. At the last moment before landing, the plane makes a large move sideways and the pilot attempts to correct it and the plane ends up skidding down the r
    • uh... i think they are using the same thought process i do when i pass of a bug as a feature...

      both of these project onto a wall of fog or mist... water in the air... if you put a fan in front of the water, the image will move or go away...

      if you put your hand through the image and disturb the fog, obviously the canvas the image is projected on will move and the image will distort...

      i know you want to drop the 22k on this and project some 42" porn so you can touch your first titty, but it ain't gonna hap
  • on smoke and water (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitalhermit ( 113459 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:30AM (#6975075) Homepage
    Years ago I saw a ceremony for a hotel somewhere in Miami. One of the attractions was a fountain that created a virtual screen from mist. The projector then, um, projected the movie onto the mist. From the front and back it looked interesting but it wasn't 3D.

    I've also seen some stuff at Disneyworld that created miniature moving holograms. They were maybe 4-5 inches high but looked pretty detailed.
  • wired is...... (Score:2, Informative)

    by cypherwise ( 650128 )
    also running an article: Look Ma' No Projection Screen [wired.com]
    • Cool...that article explains how the IO2 display works:

      IO2 Technology's Heliodisplay, the size of a breadbox, projects images onto a cloud of water vapor diffused into the air rather than on a screen. Observers can control the virtual characters as they would on a computer screen, but instead of using a mouse, they use their hands. No special glove is needed, said Chad Dyner, founder and CEO of the company.
  • I remember (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doesn't_Comment_Code ( 692510 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:31AM (#6975092)
    I remember wanting a projector that could display in the air after I saw Star Wars.

    I also wanted to make a light saber that would really turn on and off (not like those sissy plastic ones where the beam never really goes away.) At the time I really wanted one for halloween. Now I just want one because I do. I'm pretty sure the same technology could be used as long as you could produce A LOT of mist. Could somebody from ThinkGeek get on this?
    • Interesting? INTERESTING?

      What the hell is wrong with /. moderators?

      Funny, maybe. But unless these moderators know a way to stop photons in their tracks a few feet from where they were emitted, this post is perhaps intentionally funny, perhaps accidentally funny, but not in any way, shape, or form interesting.
      • But unless these moderators know a way to stop photons in their tracks a few feet from where they were emitted

        If the photons from a lightsabre actually stopped in their tracks, then the deadly beam would be invisible. Without photons, there's nothing to see.

        That would be better in many combat situations, but less useful to present a fearsome threat or just win a pose-off.

        The most physically plausible explanation for lightsabres is that the handle is simply a can holding a spool of carbon monofilament.
  • Link for more info (Score:3, Informative)

    by RIAAwakka_nakka_bakk ( 704088 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:31AM (#6975095)
    http://www.io2technology.com/ [io2technology.com]
  • by frodo from middle ea ( 602941 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:32AM (#6975100) Homepage
    What Am I going to smash to pieces when my program doesn't work ?
  • only partly dupe (Score:5, Informative)

    by fireduck ( 197000 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:33AM (#6975120)
    the fog part of the story does seem to be a dupe, but there's the far more interesting part where the guy makes the image appear without fog/smoke/anything visible to bounce the light off of.

    his website is www.io2technology.com [io2technology.com]
    • not only has someone thought of this...but it has already been patentad

      http://www.actuality-systems.com/pressrelease_ne xt .php3
      • Given the glass sphere that surrounds it, that looks like your usual project-onto-quickly-rotating-thingy kind of 3D display. All of this stuff has been thought of decades ago, and there is no innovation here. It's only that prices and computers have finally come down enough that it makes sense to produce some, at least for specialty markets.
  • dupe it may be, but has anybody considered using multiple 2d screens arranged at 90 degrees to "fill" a true 3d volume with voxels?

    sounds like a job for cluster computing!
  • by barryfandango ( 627554 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:35AM (#6975138)
    The name for the technolgoy is hardly accurate. At twenty seven inches, only a smurf could "walk-through" this screen.
  • seeing double (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ilikecaffeine ( 567091 ) <adam@adamjansen.cLISPom minus language> on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:36AM (#6975143) Homepage
    Okay, so it's a dupe.

    I still want one, and not because of the wowfactor. There seriously needs to be a large (like 3m x 3m), feasible, outdoor display that can be driven through repeatedly and still be visible. It'd be perfect for those idiot drivers who don't notice the "Keep Moving" and "No Turn on Red" signs. If they have to drive through them, they can't *not* see them. (hopefully...) Even a "Slow down, idiot" sign would be great.

    It's my mission to make Americans better drivers, although I'm beginning to think natural selection is the best way to go about that.
  • by cpopin ( 671433 )
    This technique was used in the early 90s in Disneyland's Fantasma show. Characters from Fantasia performed on a stage on Tom Sawyer's Island across the river from the audience. In less than a second, they can hide the stage in a wall of water used as a projection screen for scenes from the movie Fantasia. Then turn off the water and projector for viewing the characters on stage, again within less than a second.

    It was an awesome display. It only ran for a limited time and as far as I know they've never
    • You can still watch this today if you're making the trip to Disney World in Florida. Fantasmic [go.com] is shown every night at Disney-MGM Studios and yes, they use the "projection on water" technique a lot...very cool stuff. By turning off the stage lights they maximize the brightness of the display -- I was pretty impressed with the image quality.
    • You can now rent/buy these units. Aquatique Show among others makes them. I was a video tech at a show where they used these--it was 32 feet wide and rear projected with a Christie Digital Roadie X10 (10,000 ANSI lumen digital projector--Eidophor lovers, eat your heart out!) The staging guys installed the screen and catch box in about 4 hours--even on an electrically live stage (i.e. one with 120/208 going though it), there isn't really any concern of water--the catch boxes are very well designed to almo
  • could nike sue them though...

    after all this is air-ware...

  • Say hello to internet video porn calls. This will be a multi-billion dollar market.
  • Haunted Houses (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Esion Modnar ( 632431 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @10:50AM (#6975300)
    Halloween is coming up. Imagine putting some of these in a "haunted" house and running spooky images, with sound of course.
  • by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @11:01AM (#6975403) Journal
    • That patent uses two parabolic mirrors, but it isn't even about the "floating in air" bit, it's about dynamic interaction with the "floatin in air" bit. The parabolic mirror technique is an old magician's trick, and the interactive bit is a trivial and obvious extension. None of that has even anything to do with the MIT stuff.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @11:02AM (#6975413)
    This is a cool invention, but it will only work in a calm humid environment. In places like Boulder Colorado or Phoenix, the air is far too dry to sustain a fog. You might get to see whats on the edge of the display, but the fog would evaporate before it got to the other edge. And windy environments (Chicago, Boulder again, and displays near doorways or vents) would disrupt the fog sheet too.

    On the otherhand, this display technology would make a nice swamp cooler for hot summer days.
  • "The whole general display industry is just littered with dead bodies everywhere, and success stories, too," he said.


    <Dubya> I think he is, Mr. T, I think he is. You know what you gotta do.

  • Am I the only one who is generally unimpressed with the various manifestations of these "project on mist" technologies that have come up in a few Slashdot articles? Ooh, aah, look you can project light onto a particulate cloud. Who woulda thunk it? This "projecting images into thin air" thing bugs me. It isn't thin air, it's thick air, that's the point. Projected light, no more space-age than a slide projecter, screen made of mist, no more space-age than a humidifier. It's a novelty. The density of t
  • What! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Enrico Pulatzo ( 536675 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @11:14AM (#6975544)
    Ok, the fog screen costs 100 grand, and a mime has one? How the hell did he afford that? Finland must be the place to annoy the hell out of people for profit.
  • Star Wars? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Andrewkov ( 140579 )
    Yeah, I always wanted a 3D projection of a grainy, breaking-up, static-y video which gets stuck in a loop... Well, maybe if Pricess Leia was naked..
  • by objekt ( 232270 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @11:45AM (#6975876) Homepage
    But it's a good kind of vaporware!
  • "Ever since the movie 'Star Wars' came out and there was a distress call from Princess Leia," -- generated in thin air by the robot R2D2 -- "people all over the world have been wanting one of these."
    Do you know any single geek that did not want to get one of those 'Princess Leia' thingeee?

    Always wanted one of these!!!
    [props to all majesty players on /. :)]
  • All the articles about this technology seem to echo press releases for the company, which has not, apparently, shown the technology publicly. That's suspicious.

    Projection onto a thin curtain of falling water has been done a few times, but it's not a generally applicable technology. Projecting onto a thin layer of fog moving at high speed should work, but having a fog machine on your desk is likely to be annoying.

    This could be a nice nightclub effect, but as a desktop device, it probably won't go anywh

  • by yorkrj ( 658277 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2003 @12:38PM (#6976610) Journal
    Metafilter posted an article [metafilter.com] about this in August.
    And since the CNN article doesn't seem to mention a link to the company: Fogscreen [fogscreen.com]

    Maybe it's the shiny new website but it looks like they've significantly improved the "smoothness" of the fog since I last saw the photos.
  • Although all video clips have been taken away from their official site [io2technology.com] due to "flood of webtraffic", you can still download a video from there directly [io2technology.com]. :)

    Enjoy, and be nice. :)
  • ..and taken this picture [homeunix.net] of the screen in Tampere, Finland. It was big enough to walk through, in which case some steam would condense onto you. IIRC the layer of steam was kept in place by air currents on both sides.
  • 2003-09-10 17:56:38 Plugged In: Making a Video Screen Out of Thin Air (articles,science) (rejected)
  • A popular Finnish mime has even integrated the FogScreen into a performance.

    Popular mime?
  • I showed the /. article to my friend and he mentioned that he remembers an old (1991 I think) Sony arcade game called Hologram Time Travelers.
    In this game, the characters and landscape all floated in midair, there was no screen. He said he liked poking them while they walked around. Here's a couple links about the game:
    first one
    second one
  • There is a Wired article: Look Ma, No Projection Screen [wired.com] with some details about two companies and an interesting photo [akamai.net].
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I quote from the web site:

    "Air comes into the device, is ejected and illuminated using a proprietary technique in which the photons and air produce the visible image. There is no harmful gas or liquid. Nothing needs to be refilled. It is just ambient air."
  • Shoot, the 3d projected image is OK, but ever since I saw a real woman materialize in Logan 5's apartment in Logan Run, I've wanted one of THOSE things.

  • The 'fog machine meets projector' tech is not stereoscopic 3D so its limited to generated CGI. So there's no "Help me Obi-Wan" type 3D image recording that could be done with two or more cameras, just digital avatars at best. 3D videoconferencing will have to look elsewhere.

    There have been a few articles on /. regarding steroscopic 3D screens and projectors and frankly the term 3D is just misused too much. Maybe we need something like CG3D to clarify.
  • ...in the party scene, where the Tom Cruise character is celebrating his birthday. It's displaying a jazz singer, and one of the characters puts her hand right through the beam, blocking a bit of the image while her hand is in place. (So clearly it's "projected" like this).
  • people all over the world have been wanting one of these

    We have?

  • Tampere University is also the place which claimed to discover an anti-gravity [enterprisemission.com] effect. Make of that what you will, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who has actually seen the IO2 device in person, not just heresay from the founder.

    There's some strange things being said, eg: "But if you see it, and even accounting for all the issues surrounding it being a hand-built prototype, you will be amazed." What issues surround a hand-built prototype? So

    • If it works as claimed, then it's amazing, regardless of the build-quality. If it doesn't work as claimed, then it's not because it's hand-built - it's because its bunkum.

      Or it works as intended, but you've misinterpreted their claims to mean something more amazing than it really is. Which may be deliberate, on their part.

  • Ever since the movie 'Star Wars' came out and there was a distress call from Princess Leia," -- generated in thin air by the robot R2D2 -- "people all over the world have been wanting one of these."

    Speak for yourself, Agent Provocateur. You can keep the Star Wars holograms; I'd rather have the computer from "Time Cop" myself... :)
  • Not a Fog Screen! (Score:3, Informative)

    by theolein ( 316044 ) on Wednesday September 17, 2003 @12:12AM (#6982882) Journal
    The io2 device does not seem to be a fog screen, in spite or perhaps because of thousands of /. ravers ranting "fog screen, fog screen, fog screen".

    The site claims modfication of air and photons by a proprietry device, whatever thay may be. I have an idea that it's either similar to the fog screen but uses a heated column of air or else uses some kind of electrostatic principle.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears