SpaceTop Could Make Tony Stark’s Holo-Computer a Reality
Posted by Dabney B. on Monday, May 13th, 2013
Iron Man 3 is out. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet but I’m really looking forward to it. As you might expect, I can’t help but marvel (no pun intended) over the beauty of the Iron Man suit and the complexity of Tony Stark’s gizmos.
One of my favorite gadgets is Tony’s high-tech holographic computer. Rather than using a computer screen (that’s so 21st century) Stark interacts with data through a digital hologram that reacts to his movements.
Most people look at that type of technology and they think to themselves, “Yep, that’s a crazy science-fiction gadget. We’ll get access to holographic computers around the same time we fly around town in armored suits. So, basically not in my lifetime.”
Well, I’m happy to inform you that the future envisioned in the Iron Man series is closer than you might think — the holographic computer part, not the personal battle armor part. Sorry, I hate to burst your bubble.
An MIT grad student recently created a computer screen that displays objects that you can manipulate with your hands. It’s a little bit hard to explain without seeing it in action, but basically you stick your hands “into” the computer screen and interact with virtual projections of objects. The objects move based on how you move your hands.
This device, the SpaceTop, has three critical components. The transparent screen is what allows you to see the data. You put your hands behind the screen and the computer creates digital objects near your hands. The SpaceTop also has two cameras. One camera tracks the movements of your hands while the other one tracks the movement of your eyes. The computer needs to know where your eyes are so that it can calculate perspective and place the digital object in the right location. Put all of these features together, and you’ve got a digital display similar to what you might find in Tony Stark’s seaside mansion.
The SpaceTop blows old-school 3D interactive technology like the Kinect out of the water. I use the term “old-school” loosely, of course; the Kinect is only a few years old. Still, the SpaceTop represents the type of technology that we’ve always been waiting for. It would allow people to interact with digital 3D objects intuitively by moving it with their hands.
The SpaceTop could open up a floodgate of ingenuity as people come up with clever new apps, programs, and video games. Listen, there have been a few times when I’ve gotten excited about a ground-breaking piece of technology that could revolutionize 3D art. This is (in my opinion) by far the most significant invention in 3D digital imaging in the past decade. I hope that the creator, Jinha Lee, manages to convert this prototype into the next big thing in the digital world. If this technology really takes off, then 3D artists will enter a golden age of career opportunities.