Are we getting closer to really effective volumetric 3D display technology? A new display technology uses cold fog and a laser projector to create a volumetric 3D image. See it in action in these videos.
TechCrunch has a report about a 3D interactive display technology implemented by Russian company Displair and it is worth knowing about. It is worth knowing about not so much because the technology has the potential for wide application, in fact it probably doesn't, but because it demonstrates an almost magical connection between the virtual and the real.
You can see this connection in other demonstrations and the basic idea is quite simple. All you have to do is create a 3D, or even 2.5D, projection that appears to occupy a volume. So far all you have is an interesting realistic virtual world.
However, if you add a tracking device, such as the Kinect, to the mix and do some programming that connects the projections to the way the user is moving, then you have the magic. The user is fooled into believing that the object is real - they can appear to pick virtual objects up, throw them around and generally mess about.
The variations on the general idea come down to how to project the image and how to track the user. Displair uses cold fog and a laser projector to create a volumetric 3D image. The big problem with projecting on to fog is that it is very sensitive to air currents and, of course, moving a hand in the area of the display is likely to cause air currents.The solution is to create a laminar flow of air, which is more stable.
The fog itself is created by an ultrasonic cavitation device of the sort that has become popular for creating mood enhancing mists. At the moment it looks as if the fog forms a curtain that restricts the back-to-front depth of the 3D projection
The location sensor used isn't a Kinect but rather an infrared based sensor that is fast enough and accurate enough to track the movements of individual fingers.
While there are other cold fog projection systems, this one seems to be getting close to packaging the system as a display unit. You could probably package it as if it was just another display device. Estimates for the cost of a mass produced unit range from $4000 to $30000.
For a range of reasons, it is clear that this sort of 3D touch screen isn't going to be suitable for every application it shows the sorts of directions we are heading in. If only there was a really effective volumetric 3D display technology.