Surface computing + augmented reality = Microsoft LightSpace

Surface computing + augmented reality = Microsoft LightSpace

Summary: Microsoft is looking to extend its surface-computing work into the spatial-computing arena with a new research project known as LightSpace.

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TOPICS: CXO, Hardware, Microsoft
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Microsoft is looking to extend its surface-computing work into the spatial-computing arena with a new research project known as LightSpace.

Andy Wilson, a Microsoft research who was key in bringing the Microsoft Surface tabletop to market, is one of the principals behind LightSpace. Wilson and other researchers are set to demonstrate the new project the week of October 3 at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in New York City. (Microsoft showed off LightSpace internally at its TechFest research fair on campus in March.)

LightSpace uses multiple depth cameras and projectors to allow users to transfer objects between touch surfaces. The cameras make it appear that users are carrying projected objects in their hands and then "dropping" them onto walls, where they can be manipulated using multitouch gestures similar to those used with the Microsoft Surface tabletop.

There is a connection between LightSpace and Microsoft's Kinect game-sensor technology. Microsoft researchers envision Kinect helping to make depth cameras cheaper and more popular. According to a newly published whitepaper on LightSpace:

"Depth cameras (such as those from PrimeSense1, 3DV, and Canesta) are able to directly sense range to the nearest physical surface at each pixel location. They are unique in that they enable inexpensive real time 3D modeling of surface geometry, making some traditionally difficult computer vision problems easier. For example, with a depth camera it is trivial to composite a false background in a video conferencing application. Microsoft’s Kinect device builds on PrimeSense technology and computes a skeletal model of a player for motion-driven gaming. While such cameras are now rare, the release of Kinect is likely to make depth cameras inexpensive and widely available."

LightSpace attempts to further the notion that "the room is the computer." (So much for "the network is the computer.") It also points to a future where all physical surfaces become interactive displays -- including the user's body.

Microsoft has been looking for ways to extend its Surface technology. A couple of years ago, Microsoft researchers showed off a spherical Suface. In 2009, they demonstrated another Surface spinoff known as "SecondLight," a rear projection-vision surface technology that allowed users to project through and beyond the display. (By the way, for you codename hounds, the Bing Maps on Silverlight project at Microsoft happened to be codenamed "FirstLight.")

(Thanks to Microsoft Student Partner Pradeep for the pointer to the LightSpace page.)

Topics: CXO, Hardware, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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22 comments
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  • Lightspace is the next winning Microsoft Product?

    A lot of people think that the new Windows Phone is the future winner for Microsoft, but I believe they're all wrong. When companies innovate by litigating, it kills the product out of the door and regardless of what others report, It's a doomed platform.

    I for one, really appreciate Microsoft's willingness to venture into new and seemingly irrevalant lines of business computing such as LightSpace... And this makes me excited! When they come by to install a LightSpace area in my basement, it will finally be worthwhile upgrade. Windows ME was the only version I could get to work correctly, and with Internet Explorer 9, the upgrade will finally be worth it. Also; I hope they don't mind re-spackling a wall from Chartreuse to perhaps an Isabelline white color as this has been a subject of debate with my husband for several months. Maybe, if the Microsoft Installer has the skills, I can give them $20 to replace a portion of carpet with a beautiful travertine tile that I've had my eyes on.

    I like the idea that "The Room Is The Computer" and I believe this is finally the computer upgrade both me and my husband can agree on. Lightspace will be a winner!
    RosePeters
    • RE: Surface computing augmented reality = Microsoft LightSpace

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    • RE: Surface computing augmented reality = Microsoft LightSpace

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  • The above is nice, but MS needs to show some action now

    If MS brings the Xbox experience to PCs, the company can begin to really popularize its Kinect product.

    My beef with MS Surface technology, is MS' apparent insistence that its expensive and bulky camera system, that makes interacting with real world objects anywhere on the screen, be kept intact. This has caused MS Surface technology to languish for several years, and will result in the technology languishing a few more years. Why doesn't MS just create lower tier MS Surface technologies, by stripping out the camera system, which has impeded the technology's success? Just specify that these lower tier MS Surface technologies, optionally come with scanning technologies to the sides of the displays, so that tagged items may be placed on them, and virtual representations may be brought up onscreen immediately when this is done. (The scanning technologies may be made up of cheap cameras for instant recognition and fast scanning.) Just get these lower tier Surface technologies onto the market ASAP, and work to have them superseded by the current Surface system, after MS manages to get their size and cost down. Right now MS' reputation is suffering, as detractors laugh at MS' inability to make its Surface technology take off. And of course business opportunity is being lost, and MS opens the door wider every day, for competitors to swoop in with scaled back technologies, which take off.

    I also think it is a bad idea for MS to allow OEMs to release slate PCs with Windows 7 Premium, only to have them panned universally by reviewers. This simply lowers market confidence about MS' ability to deliver a relevant OS UX for slate computers. Every time MS does this, it shoots itself in the foot, and sets itself up for another Windows Mobile 6.5 scenario, in which virtually everyone pleaded with the company to innovate its OS UX, and the company refused to do so. What MS is doing with Windows Phone 7 is great, but it needs to begin to show more UI / UX innovation across all its platforms, [b]now[/b], and stop tempting the market to do to it, what it did to it over Windows Mobile 6.5.
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  • RE: Surface computing augmented reality = Microsoft LightSpace

    How many times can a silly idea emerging again and again? Such interface really sounds cool, yes. But first of all it does not tickle with the fundamental user-machine interface obstacle, it doesn't simplify anything. Secondly operators instead of computer class will need to take kungfu class.
    bonelyfish_1@...
  • RE: Surface computing augmented reality = Microsoft LightSpace

    I really like all those things and know how powerful MSR is but the thing is that most of those things won't see light of the day. While Apple makes hypes around their limited range of products, I don't know why MS kills the real awesomeness in MSR.
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  • Ballmer's bonus slashed

    Apparently Microsoft still has a board of directors and apparently they're still capable of acting in small ways.

    From the NY Post: "But a discussion of Ballmer's pay in the company's annual proxy filing also referred to the "unsuccessful launch of the Kin phone, loss of market share in the company's mobile phone business, and the need for the company to pursue innovations.""

    A potted plant could have returned better dividends with fewer product failures over the last ten years.

    Why on earth are they wasting time with things like LightSpace? Is it that hard to fill the time between when the pot has been smoked and the pizza arrives?
    HollywoodDog
  • RE: Surface computing augmented reality = Microsoft LightSpace

    MS Surface was cool 3 years ago. Not much seems changed today. The system still requires a physical mouse and keyboard to do anything in Windows. Only the specific Surface apps use the touchscreen. (I was using an MS Surface several times last week.
    Regulator1956
  • RE: Surface computing augmented reality = Microsoft LightSpace

    Can anyone explain me how lightspace can be evolved from Surface computing and augmented reality.What function's of this two will be used in lightspace technology.
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