By Mark Brown

Researchers at Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group have used a transparent OLED screen, a Kinect and “some software magic” to build a prototype 3D desktop you can manipulate with your hands.

The demonstration shows a pop-up monitor arm, which holds a see-through Samsung display. The user puts their hands behind the screen, and a Kinect — Microsoft’s body-tracking camera for Xbox 360 — detects finger movements and gestures.

This allows you to rifle through a digital filing cabinet of windows and documents, and use a pinch gesture to make a window fill the screen.

Another demo shows how you can pick up virtual objects and drag them about a 3D grid. The possibilities for gaming — like hand-picking troops on a 3D strategy battlefield, or solving spatial puzzles — are enormous.

Put your hands back down on the keyboard or trackpad — which sit below the monitor, and just out of view of the Kinect — and you’ll go back to bog-standard 2D interaction. Going back to 3D again is as easy as raising your hands up.

The prototype also uses Kinect for head-tracking, so as you look around the screen the 3D perspective changes. This lets you size-up a stack of documents just by tilting your head and seeing how far the digital pile goes into the distance.

Don’t expect to see inventions from Applied Sciences — a group of Microsoft tinkerers focused on novel human computer interfaces — on shop shelves anytime soon. The “see-through 3D desktop” is still a pie in the sky idea, and there’s no guarantee that it actually see the light of day



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