Is that a Kinect on your shoulder, or are you just pleased to see me? Microsoft Research has indulged in a little motion-tracking experimentation and come up with the Wearable Multitouch Projector, the 21st-century equivalent of a pirate’s useful parrot. A combination of a Kinect sensor bar and a portable projector, the wearable PC can create a virtual display on any wall, notepad, desk or even your hand, tracking movements and gestures as you interact with your data.
The pico-projector itself requires no calibration or focusing to produce a clear picture, and the UI has a clean, Metro-style feel to it. For palm-projection use, Microsoft says buttons have to be 23mm in diameter to be tracked properly, but wall or desk projection can obviously be more complex.
Kinect, meanwhile, can track finger and hand movements in 3D space, allowing users to hover over controls, stab at the virtual screen to select, and more.
Wearable Multitouch Projector:
It’s not the first time we’ve seen motion-tracking and projectors used to shake up computing. The LuminAR digital desk lamp project put a projector and a camera inside a bulb-style housing suitable for an anglepoise light, intended for desk-bound use, though the earlier “sixth sense” wearable computer is more like Microsoft Research’s project. That used a custom lanyard-worn pico/PC device that could overlay augmented reality information onto the people you were talking to.
Currently the Microsoft Research system is oversized and requires a cabled connection to a PC, but we can imagine similar technology being pared down and baked into a future Windows Phone. As converts to the idea of wearable computing, we’d be mighty interested in that.