New 3D NUI Experience: Pinch-the-Sky Dome

From Microsoft Research

The more the concept of Natural User Interfaces gets contoured, the more the traditional mouse and keyboard start looking like blunt tools from the stone age of technology. Pinch-the-Sky Dome is a new project from Microsoft Research that brings to the table an entirely new 3D NUI experience. Users shouldn’t think for a minute that all that technology has to offer has hit an apex with them being stuck in front of a two-dimensional screen. Fact is that the way content is served changes, as different interaction models emerge, and the Pinch-the-Sky Dome is an illustrative example in this regard. Soon enough, a 2D screen will prove to be insufficient, or poorly equipped to handle large quantities of information that need to be displayed simultaneously. That’s where 3D navigable spaces come in.

“Pinch-the-Sky Dome is a large immersive installation where several users can interact simultaneously with omni-directional data inside of a tilted geodesic dome,” an excerpt from the Pinch-the-Sky Dome whitepaper reads (via IStartedSomething). “This experience is designed to immerse the users in the omni-directional visualization and allow them to manipulate and interact with data using freehand gestures in mid-air without the need to wear or hold tracking devices. In designing this experience, we focused on exploring ways to allow the users to interact with immersive content beyond arm’s reach through simple gestures and without on-body trackers. We also aimed to highlight the increasing availability of omni-directional content (e.g., panoramic imagery, space data, earth mapping data, etc.) and explore effective ways of visualizing it within an immersive curved display.”

Microsoft Research is obviously exploring the concept of 3D navigation in more projects. Unrelated to Pinch-the-Sky Dome is the Cloud Mouse, an initiative in which the device, in concert with a Cloud operating system, allows customers to seamlessly explore 3D structured content. Obviously, the Cloud Mouse goes far beyond the traditional mouse and its limited, 2D universe and non-NUI interaction model. Similarly, the NUI technology behind the Pinch-the-Sky Dome allows for users to leverage simple gestural interactions in order to control and explore data served on virtually any surface. A simple projector-camera setup is capable of transforming any space into an interactive surface, or, more importantly, into interactive surfaces.

“The main contribution of this work is in enabling the user to interact with omni-directional data in the dome using simple freehand gestures above the projector without special gloves or tracking devices. We acknowledge that for many scenarios there are important benefits associated with using tracked physical devices; for example, reduction of hand movement and fatigue, availability of mode-switching buttons, and haptic feedback. On the other hand, tracked devices can be cumbersome, may be prone to getting lost, require batteries, and so on,” it is added in the Pinch-the-Sky Dome whitepaper.

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