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Microsoft brings interactive SpaceTop 3D desktop interface to life

SpaceTop 3D desktop interface
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Now that we can navigate a computer screen through gestures, could a three-dimensional interface that recognizes gestures be far behind? According to Jinha Lee, who created a 3D desktop when he interned at Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group, the future could be closer than you think.

Lee, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad student, showed off his SpaceTop 3D desktop interface at this week’s TED conference in Long Beach, California, as first reported by Wired.

Powered by a transparent LED display and a system of two cameras – with one tracking the user’s gestures and the other watching their eyes to automatically adjust the projection – the SpaceTop 3D interface makes it possible to use your hands to interact with 3D graphic,s like documents and webpages, as if they were physical objects.

Unlike using the Xbox Kinect’s stereoscopic cameras to navigate your video game console from your couch, the SpaceTop interface is designed for you to literally reach your hands under the computer screen to manipulate the 3D projections.

As you can see in the demo below, the ability to manipulate digital objects in 3D makes a lot of sense for engineering and architecture where you can rotate objects with your hands rather than with your computer mouse. Although the interaction is facilitated by a computer and requires you to learn specific gestures to control the SpaceTop interface, it seems like a more intuitive way to use a computer.

There are no plans to bring SpaceTop to market just yet, though we hope a company out there will see the benefit of introducing a more efficient and natural way of using a computer. “It shouldn’t be in the hands of scientists, it should be in the hands of normal people,” Lee said. After all, the technology to bring this type of 3D environment to life clearly exists, so we hope our next computer will have a 3D home screen rather than live tiles.


Gloria Sin
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Gloria’s tech journey really began when she was studying user centered design in university, and developed a love for…
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