14 August 2001
is a collection of experimental and research work, usually connected
to graphics or interface design. The best examples combine innovative
technology with appealing design and execution. This year the better
part of the exhibits are focused on technologies that improve the
human-computer interface, with a minority of exhibits on other,
eclectic subjects. The interface exhibits range from direct improvements
on conventional display and haptic feedback devices to more adventuresome
systems that add a new dimension to interaction. The remainder of
the exhibits vary from a simulated wolf pack to a teddy bear that
is also a communication device.
Modeling the social interactions of a wolf pack is the goal of the
MIT Media Lab's Alpha Wolf project. A human player may guide the
behavior of a wolf pup as it interacts with other wolf pups and
adults, including the titular alpha male himself. The pup learns
his place in the pack through a combination of the player's interactions
and the behavior of the totally computer-guided wolves. The player
interactions are limited to enticing the pup to bark, howl, or growl
at a target wolf. Depending on the attitude of the other wolf, the
result may be aggression, play, submission, or a number of other
behaviors. The pup will remember the results of the encounters,
and may act accordingly the next time it encounters that wolf.
As with many good
artificial intelligence systems, several wolves together are fun
to watch without any player intervention at all. The subtle but
effective black-and-white cartoon rendering portrays each pup's
emotions well, so the player is almost never confused about the
mood of their charge. The interface is a combination of microphone
and mouse. While the player uses the mouse to select a target for
the pup's action, they must bark or howl into the microphone themselves
to actually cause the action. Thankfully, a pup can perform reflex
urination without any player intervention.
The OS X Aqua desktop may look really slick, but it is probably
not something you want to hang on your wall. Informative Art, developed
by a group at the PLAY-Interactive Institute in Sweden, is a way
of displaying information that is both readable and attractive.
Images inspired by artists such as Piet Mondrian, Andy Warhol, and
Mark Rothko are projected onto hanging screens. Each image provides
information in a non-obvious way. The rectangles of color in the
Mondrian style image, for example, represent the weather in six
cities. The cans of soup in the Warhol-inspired piece are a subtle
clock; as the day wears on, asparagus soup cans are replaced by
tomato equivalents. Bands of color in the Rothko style image represent
activity in the room over time, and move gradually across the screen.
and nonrepresentational nature of the art is used to good effect.
There is no visible user interface, yet once the purpose of the
image is explained the information contained in it becomes completely
obvious. The killer application for Informative Art may be even
simpler, however: the next time a friend examines a modern artwork's
lines and expanses of color and says, "I don't get it,"
you may have an answer ready.
New Display Systems
Several exhibitors in Emerging Technologies are showing off systems
meant to improve the way information is viewed. The Illusion Hole,
developed at Osaka University, takes the conventional stereo table
display a step further. The Hole allows up to three people wearing
shutter glasses to share the illusion of a three-dimensional object.
The system draws a separate image for each viewer, so each person
receives a clear and undistorted picture, regardless of the position
of the two other viewers. Each viewer can walk around the table
and view the object from any angle.
If three people
are still too few, the Cylindrical 3D Display provides a three dimensional
illusion that any number of people can experience at once. The device
uses a set of spinning LEDs and a set of contra-rotating shutters
to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object inside the
cylinder. The combination allows the display to show the object
from any angle, which allows many people to view the same object
with stereo vision. The result is an object with palpable depth,
though currently only in one color and at low resolution.
color are the strong points of the Reality Center, which provides
a huge, curved screen driven by two big LCD projectors. While the
concept of stitching multiple high resolution displays together
has been around for a long time, this iteration uses bright LCD
projectors that allow the system to be used in a room with ambient
light. The result is a huge, bright screen that any number of people
can simply walk up to and gather around.
In contrast to
the other three technologies, the I-Ball is a personal display system.
The I-Ball is meant to evoke the classic image of a crystal ball.
An embedded mirror reflects the image from a hidden projector, leaving
the ball itself clean and simple. The visage of the user looking
into the ball is captured through a half-silvered mirror, allowing
the people communicating to actually look into each others' eyes.
The system also includes a gesture-based interface for interacting
with images inside the ball, demonstrated by a robot that you can
wave to and then - of course - destroy.
Some more adventuresome exhibits go beyond refining the display
to changing the way a user interacts with the system. Most elaborate
of these is the Mobile Augmented Reality System, which also wins
the Blade Runner Award for the most conventionally futuristic device.
The system consists of a backpack and a headset, monitored by a
set of wall and ceiling sensors. When donned, the display presents
an augmented view of the exhibit floor, complete with wireframe
models and text labels.
Display attempts to remove the visible hardware of the display entirely.
A projector and camera are placed where they can view an entire
room. Using a rotating mirror, the display then projects images
onto any surface in the room, including tables, walls, and paint
cans. The camera watches the projected image, and senses when a
user touches part of the display. In the example installation, the
system helps users build an image out of colored M&Ms. Each
user places a few pieces, so that as more people come through the
exhibit and more M&Ms are placed, a collaborative piece of candy
artwork becomes visible. Not as flexible as a visor and backpack,
but much more comfortable.
The Origami Desk
also helps users create artwork. When human assistance becomes insufferable,
an origami artist may turn to the desk for help. While the desk
has a conventional touchscreen interface for navigation, it can
also sense the position of a specially prepared piece of origami
paper. The paper is covered with conductive loops, one in each corner
and one in the middle. The desk is sensitive to the resonant frequency
of each loop. The user places his or her paper on the desk and tries
to follow the instructions illuminated on the surface. If a fold
goes awry, the desk will know and can correct the user.
||A Must See.
the preview video and all of the contributors at the conference
interview with this year's eTech Chair, Mk Haley
Technologies, or eTech (to insiders) provides a glimpse into
the possible future, but like Galadriel's mirror. It is just
one of the possible futures. It has been known by its current
name since 1999.
it was known as Digital
it was know as Electric
it was the Digital
Hole in eTech is described in the Paper: Interactive Stereoscopic
Display for Three or More Users by Yoshifumi Kitamura