Researchers at the University of Sussex have created a revolutionary fog screen capable of projecting free-floating interactive 3D holograms. Using a shape-shifting fog screen called MistForm, researchers found a way to interact with high-resolution 3D objects without compromising visual quality. This is a truly groundbreaking discovery mostly because fog screens are notorious for pixels bleeding, which inevitably compromise image resolution.

3D Display Technology

Marking the first time shape-shifting displays and fog screens have been used together, the University of Sussex research team designed their 3D display technology around the user:

“With other 3D display technologies, your eyes need to focus on the display surface, even if you see an object “popping out” of the screen. If you then try to touch it, your eyes will need to focus either on your hand or on the display, which soon can lead to eye fatigue,” Dr. Diego Martinez Plasencia, Lecturer at the Interact Lab at the University of Sussex’s School of Engineering and Informatics, said. “MistForm moves the display surface so that both the object and the hand remain comfortably visible. With this kind of technology, we can provide comfortable direct hand 3D interaction in all the range your arms can reach.”

The Shape-Shifting Fog Screen

Measuring the same size as a 39″ TV screen, MistForm is made up of a thin fog layer surrounded by “curtains” of air keeping it stable during use. Morphing into a variety of shapes, MistForm can easily curve around two users allowing for optimal visibility. Using a Microsoft Kinect sensor with an industry-leading OptiTrack 3D system, MistForm can track a user’s hand movements and adjust the fog screen accordingly – keeping the 3D image clearly in focus at all times. The fog is strategically released from above pushing the screen back and forth within a range of seven inches.

“This has the potential to enable new forms of interaction and collaboration with computers, liberating users from fixed, static screens and opening up whole new interactive spaces.”

Researchers at the University of Sussex did something most scientists had yet to figure out: they understood the scattering patterns, the shape reconstruction, and 3D projection algorithms. By doing so, MisForm, “removes any image distortion caused by projecting on moving surfaces.” According to Dr. Plasencia, “This latest study builds upon early concepts to provide a far more enjoyable and reliable user experience, by combining two existing technologies to combat this issues of distortion and uneven brightness that we often see with fog screens.”

High-Res Interactive Holograms

The University of Sussex study solved the biggest problems facing fog screens: image clarity. By integrating state-of-the-art motion trackers and detecting the user’s movements, the display can now adapt to the user and not the other way around. According to the study, “algorithms can then figure out just how to stretch and distort the images on the screen to counter the uneven surface of the fog.”
The team will be showcasing their revolutionary shape-changing fog screen at this year’s Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) conference in Denver on May 10th.

Whether it’s fog screens or holographic projectors, having 3D digital content interact with the user has become a new focus for researchers.

Sources: University of Sussex Press Release, New Atlas