Professor Sriram Subramanian, Dr Diego Martinez Plasencia and Florent Berthaut believe their research could change the way people interact and collaborate in public spaces like museums and shop windows. Reflective optical combiners like beam splitters and two way mirrors are used to overlap digital contents on the user’s hands or bodies.
The so-called “combining glass” could be used to interact with museum exhibits – when a visitor aligns the reflection of their fingers with an object behind the glass, pop-up windows could display information about the pieces being ‘touched’. Using the glass in tandem with a projector could also turn visitor’s fingers into miniature lamps, illuminating dark and sensitive objects, as shown in the video below.
As well as practical and commercial applications for the combining glass, researchers at Bristol University have explored volumetric displays for use in artistic installations. Loops recorded in digital mixers would appear in glass, floating above the mixer. The musician could then grab these representations on the fly, playing and tweaking them according to their preference.
“The possibility to blend together the spaces in front and behind the semi-transparent mirror could mean a whole new type of interactive experience”
Dr Diego Martinez, a Researcher in Human-Computer Interaction in the Bristol Interaction and Graphics (BIG) group, said: “This work offers exciting interactive possibilities that could be used in many situations. Semi-transparent surfaces are everywhere around us, in every bank and shop window.
“One example could be when people can’t access a shop because it’s closed. Their reflection would be visible inside the shop window, however, and that would enable them to try clothes on using their reflection, pay for the item using a debit/credit card and then have it delivered to their home.
“The possibility to blend together the spaces in front and behind the semi-transparent mirror could mean a whole new type of interactive experience. While projectors can only augment the surface of objects, combining them with reflections allows people to reveal what’s inside the object or even purely virtual objects floating around them.”
Bristol University’s department of computer science presented a paper on their research at the “premier forum for innovations in computer-human interfaces”, UIST 2014.
You can read the abstract of Diego Martinez Plasencia, Florent Berthaut, Abhijit Karnik and Sriram Subramanian’s research paper on the Bristol Interaction and Graphics website.