Microsoft Labs introduced a prototype for a new 3D monitor which enables users not only to see 3D objects but also to touch them. Even though the main operation of the monitor is done with one finger and 3D glasses users will be able to feel forms such as cubes and balls due to haptic feedback. This shall also work for blind people. The monitor even differentiates between different weights.
The used hardware is relatively simple: the 3D monitor has touch sensors and is mounted on a robot arm. According to the simulated object and the pressure of the finger the robot arm reacts with counter pressure. If the user e.g. sees a ball in front of himself he will be able to follow its surface. How this can be done practically Microsoft demonstrates in a short video.
As mentioned before also the weight will be simulated by the monitor. For heavier objects the resistance to move will be higher than for lighter objects. The 3D monitor tries to keep in touch with the user in order to improve the 3D effect. If the user moves its finger away the display follows, and in case the finger is moved towards the display the arm of the robot gently moves back. This is done in combination with continuous adaption of depth information, which generates an impression close to the reality for the user.
Potential application areas of this new technology are manifold and include medical education – see image above where you can go through a 3D scan of a human brain and can mark positions for further investigation and 3D games.