Monthly Archives: December 2007

Telepresence in the air

Marc Andreessen’s blog today mentioned this cool demo:

This uses video goggles with a head-tracking sensor to remotely control the orientation of a camera mounted on a pilot-less plane, letting you virtually explore the heavens.

Apart from the general wow-factor of flying around the sky without ever leaving the ground, it reminded me of another piece of impressive technology I came across recently: quad-copters.

Here, a high-speed DSP is used to combine realtime feedback from gyros and sensors on position, wind direction, etc. to control four rotating blades independently allowing for stationary hovering in a wide range of conditions with no pilot input required. Great for remote video surveillance etc.

Combining these two pieces of technology seems like a perfect opportunity. Has anyone done it yet?

And a missing piece of the puzzle: even using stereo cameras to feed the video goggles, the image will still be flat since there is no way to remotely focus it (other than relying on auto-focus). Has anyone developed a set of video goggles that can track the eye’s ability to focus on specific objects? Combine that with a pair of remote cameras that can track the eye’s focus in that way and you could have REAL telepresence (once the latency isn’t too high, of course).

Isn’t it great that we live in an age where such amazing technology is affordable enough to let people devise interesting hacks in their spare time…?

Turn any surface into a touchscreen

Thanks to Kieran for pointing me towards this impressive Wii Remote hack, covered by Engadget here.

Johnny Chung Lee has done a marvellously simple hack which uses the standard Wii remote controller, plus some ballpoint pens modified to emit infra red, to convert any surface into an interactive touch-screen. With multiple pens, you can support multi-touch effects (as seen on the iPhone and iPod Touch), and previously mentioned on this blog back in March 2006.

Here’s an example of his technique in use:

(Make sure you watch the video long enough to see the technique in action; it’s very impressive, especially when combined with a video projector.)

Johnny’s software to make all this work is free, and available here.