Microsoft's research arm has adapted an Xbox 360 Kinect motion controller camera to create a 3D interactive environment. The project, dubbed "HoloDesk", gets about as close as you can to a real 3D environment using today's technology.
It works by using a screen that sits above a flat surface. In-between the screen and the bottom is a beam splitter, which helps create the 3D effects. They have used the Kinect camera to provide face tracking for the HoloDesk user as well as the user's hands. Combined with algorithms and other elements not mentioned, it enables the user to appear to be touching and moving 3D objects on the screen.
"The Holodesk isn’t the only 3-D interaction experiment out there. But what sets it apart from the rest is the use of beam-splitters and a graphic processing algorithm, which work together to provide a more life-like experience. The video provides a much better explanation, so I’ll leave the explanation at that," said Steve Clayton in his announcement on the Microsoft Technet site.
It may take a while before users can try this out for themselves, but Microsoft does look to its research departments for innovative ideas to use in future product releases. Eventually games could incorporate the Holodesk's technology, for example, or it could be used in design stages for manufacturers by producing 3D models of new products to test before committing to expensive prototype production.