Scientists have developed a futuristic, shape-changing fog display that allows users to interact with virtual 2D and 3D objects floating in mid air. While shape-changing displays and fog screens already exist, this is the first time the two technologies have been combined, researchers said. The invention, called MistForm, flexibly adapts to single or multiple users interacting with the floating content, all the while changing shape and position to optimise visibility.
“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,” said Diego Martinez Plasencia, from the at the University of Sussex. 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.
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.
“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,” Plasencia said.
“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,” he said. “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,” he added.
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,” said Plasencia.
MistForm is roughly the size of a 39-inch TV screen 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, researchers said.