Imagine for one second your model outside your screen. Almost like it was in your hands. And it could be altered and rotated at the command of a few mouse clicks. Perhaps pen-clicks. Or even, altered by your very hands. Well, what if I told you there was already something like that out there?
3D screens are not new, but they have been difficult to commercialize. Remember Nintendo VirtualBoy? That abject failure demonstrated that developing a user-friendly manner of interacting would be a long-way off. One of the biggest problems since the start has been how to correct what is being projected to suit the position of the viewer. One way is to make goggles with slightly different images for each eye. Another is tracking the eyes to alter the imagery to create the illusion. Rapid development of eye-tracking algorithms (i.e. Microsoft Kinect) means that no goggles or unfriendly UI can be avoided, creating a Natural Use Interface (NUI). Here are the two contenders for creating a real 3D CAD modelling experiences.
The zSpace by InfiniteZ looks like a simple tablet/pen product from the outside, until someone hands you a pair of glasses. These glasses separate the two sets of images being played on the screen, fooling your eyes into thinking there is some depth to the flat object. This is exactly what happens if you see a movie in 3D and are given glasses. On these sleek-looking specs are tracking points, which allow a tiny camera to track the glasses and constantly revise the image to suit the position of the viewer. Without this feature, depth and perspective are limited, and the 3D experience becomes less than stellar. One interacts with your design with a pen, actually touching and moving it about as if it were there.
I have yet to try one of these out, although I have been informed that it works incredibly well. But I have a good question. Would having one of these make you a better designer? And what's the joy of sharing, if other's can't see your creation in full 3D? Perhaps a little too much - all I wish for in a CAD program is smooth rendering and low-lag, and making sure my screen is clean. Has anyone else tried the zSpace? What was your experience?
There is nothing more ergonomic than thin air. Instead of having to hold up a pen, Microsoft Research Labs in Cambridge, MA (actually, just down the street from our office) has developed a 3D projection system that is controlled by your hands. No glasses, no pen. Just a projector and suspended glass screen. A computer reposition or alter models based on the movement of your hands, tracked by a Kinect. Another webcam tracks your face, providing perspective adjustment. But what can you do? Product simulation (like a phone you can pickup and click buttons), physics simulation, collaborative working (where someone else hand appears and interacts with your screen) are just a few things described in the video below.
If Microsoft chooses to release this as a product, I might be the first buyer. This is simply amazing. Imagine using GrabCAD teams and the hands of other users from thousands of miles away interact with the model you're actually working on. Since Kinects have become widely available and the projection system is so simple, this could be a killer app. Although zSpace has the edge of looking like a professional product, the Holodesk wins because it's intuitive UX.