Future of Entertainment: Introduction To Digital Overlay

Future of Entertainment: Introduction To Digital Overlay

The Future of Entertainment series by iQ by Intel and PSFK Labs will highlight the latest in entertainment innovation. Over the course of 10 weeks, we will showcase new products, services and technologies, exploring the changing face of how we consume, share and create content and get reactions from Intel experts.

What if you never had to worry about losing the TV remote ever again because every surface in your home could act as the universal control to all your devices? Soon, we may no longer need to overturn our couch cushions, or walk over to the set every time we want to change the channel – we may actually use the cushion as the remote itself.

Researchers are currently working hard on technologies that have the potential to create interfaces that can exist anywhere – even on our own bodies. This next-generation of interface represents a trend that we’re calling Digital Overlay. This trend features ‘virtual’ controls that are designed to intuitively appear and disappear as needed, allowing for new modes of computing, navigation and content consumption.

A project developed by Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Interaction Institute called OmniTouch is one manifestation of this Digital Overlay trend. The system is able to turn virtually any surface – a notebook, coffee table or even your hand – into an operational touchscreen. Using a combination of a projector and a Microsoft Kinect short-range depth camera, the OmniTouch can gauge the viewing angle of a surface, and project touch-enabled interfaces onto them. The UI is completely multi-touch and the shoulder-worn system can recognize when a finger is hovering over a space to support common gestures such as pinch to zoom and swipe. This ‘3D workspace’ functionality ensures that the UI is always readily accessible.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon say, “It’s conceivable that anything you can do on today’s mobile devices, you will be able to do on your hand using OmniTouch.”

In its prototype form, the OmniTouch is a rather clunky, shoulder-mounted rig that that even the Borg might shun, but over time, as its core components shrink in size, it’s conceivable that we’ll see miniaturized versions that can be worn more discretely.

Another manifestation of the Digital Overlay trend is a proof of concept by electronics manufacturer Fujitsu that adds an intelligent layer to physical media like newspapers or magazines, allowing users to cut and paste text and photos from tangible documents into their computers, phones or tablets.

Similar to the OmniTouch, FingerLink uses a combination of projectors and overhead cameras, allowing users to operate objects with the same gestures they’d use on a tablet or smartphone. By dragging their finger over an image or text, it is digitally captured and can be stored or shared with ease. 

While these proof of concepts point to a potential future, how does Digital Overlay actually fit into people’s lives? The Magic Cube Laser Projection Keyboard by Celluon is currently on the market, and shows some practical applications. 

The portable device is roughly the size of a Zippo lighter and uses a laser projected keyboard to solve the problem of needing to type long-form content on a smartphone or tablet screen by projecting a full-size keyboard onto nearly any flat surface. The cube connects to most smart devices using bluetooth and uses an infrared sensor to detect when a user’s fingers are touching the keys.

Projected interfaces for mobile devices could have many implications that go beyond just the utility of being able to type emails quickly. Imagine if mobile content like movies and games came embedded with their own specific set of controls that could be projected anywhere. This could enable new forms of interactive content or social gameplay that no longer needs to be confined by a screen, regardless of size.

These overlaid interfaces can bring common, ‘unconnected’ objects to life by imbuing them with functionality, or enhance immersion by adding an extra layer of information to any experience.

Throughout the week, the Future of Entertainment series will be taking a look at other examples within the Digital Overlay trend that demonstrate how developers are using similar technologies as those outlined above to craft new user experiences. This trend is part of a larger theme called Everywhere Remote which showcases how creative developers are finding innovative ways to integrate advanced sensors and natural interface protocols to make people’s interactions with technology hyper-intuitive and invisible. 

As we revisit the Everywhere Interface theme in the coming weeks, we will show you examples of how developers are experimenting with advanced gesture controls and even people’s brainwaves to control interfaces and devices. Stay tuned to iQ by Intel and PSFK for daily updates to our Future of Entertainment series.