Remember back when SF movies used to feature devices with impossibly thin and impossibly flexible displays? That's what I was thinking of today when I saw the latest project to come out of one of Fujitsu's labs.
Fujitsu has just unveiled a next-gen user interface which uses a webcam combined with an overhead projector to enable users to interact with real world objects like books, paper, and more.
It's called the FingerLink Interaction System, and this interface uses the webcam to track a user's finger or hand movements and then responds to the user by changing the output of the overhead projector.
If the user drags a finger over an image, the system will scan it and upload it. If the user selects a paragraph it will be highlighted by the projector - much like you would see on a touchscreen equipped tablet.
Check out this video for more detail:
As cool as this is, it's really not anything new.
I know of researchers that have been using tricks like this for some years now as they try to theorize new ways we might interface with electronic devices. The Human Media Lab at Queen's University in particular has been using this very idea. Here's one video from 2010 that is largely the same thing (only simpler).
Of course, the HML wasn't trying to develop the kind of interface that Fujitsu demoed above. Researchers at that lab were always thinking about the devices that might be around the corner. They were trying to understand how one might use devices like a larger touchscreen equipped table or a bendable mobile display. Yes, these gadgets are practical now, but the HML came up with them at a point when they were still science fiction.
In any case, Fujitsu shows us what is possible if you build gadgets based on the tech you have rather than wait for the tech you want. The FingerLink is much more likely to become a real and useful commercial product than some of the concepts demoed by the Human Media Lab.