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Shape-changing fog screen opens up new possibilities

08 May 2017

The University of Sussex developed a mid-air display allowing uses to reach through and interact with 2D and 3D objects while changing shape to optimise visibility.

Shape-changing fog screen (Credit: Interact Labs/YouTube)

Fog displays scatter light in an uneven way – a different amount of light in different directions. By understanding these scattering patterns and controlling the shape, common visibility and brightness problems can be addressed. Also, by making use of shape reconstruction and 3D projection algorithms, MistForm adjusts its shape to better support user interaction, all while removing any image distortion caused by projecting on moving, curved fog surfaces.

Dr Diego Martinez Plasencia, a Lecturer in the Interact Lab at the University of Sussex’s School of Engineering and Informatics, said: “This has the potential to enable new forms of interaction and collaboration with computers, liberating users from fixed, static screens and opening up whole new interactive spaces.

“This latest study builds upon early concepts to provide a far more enjoyable and reliable user experience, by combining two exciting technologies to combat the issues of distortion and uneven brightness that we often see with fog screens.

“With other 3D display technologies your eyes need to focus on the display surface, even if you see an object “popping out” of the screen. If you then try to touch it, your eyes will need to focus either on your hand or on the display, which soon can lead to eye fatigue (unless the 3D object and your hand are really close to the display surface). MistForm can adapt to these scenarios, moving the display surface so that both the object and the hand remain comfortably visible. With this kind of technique, we can provide comfortable direct hand 3D interaction in all the range your arms can reach.”

The screen is roughly the size of a 39in TV and is formed of fog stabilised by curtains of air. The screen can move towards and away from the user and can bend into numerous different shapes. For example, it can curve around two collaborators, providing optimum visibility for both people, or it can take on a triangular shape if those two people need to work on different areas of the screen independently.

The display is projected from above and motion trackers detect the user’s movements and intentions, allowing the display to adapt accordingly.

Whilst shape-changing displays and fog screens exist, this is the first time the two technologies have been combined, which opens up new possibilities.

Materials provided by University of Sussex

Video courtesy of Interact Lab

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