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LuminAR Bulb transforms any surface into a touch screen


December 7, 2012

The LuminAR Bulb works with standard light fixtures and projects an interactive image onto any surface

The LuminAR Bulb works with standard light fixtures and projects an interactive image onto any surface

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We've all seen gigantic touch screens on the news or in movies, but what if you could achieve the same type of interface by simply replacing the bulb in your desk lamp? That's the idea behind the LuminAR, developed by a team led by Natan Linder at the MIT Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces Group. It combines a Pico-projector, camera, and wireless computer to project interactive images onto any surface – and is small enough to screw into a standard light fixture.

The LuminAR project (the capitals reflect its shared properties with other augmented reality set-ups) has two separate but interconnected components. The Luminar Bulb is a stand-alone unit that allows users to interact with its projection through simple hand gestures for zoom, position control, and content manipulation. It can plug into any fixture, but takes on even more functionality when combined with the LuminAR Lamp - an articulated robotic arm (similar to the Pinokio Lamp), enabling you to move the projected image around.

The Luminar Lamp remembers where you've moved different applications, allowing you to organize your workspace accordingly, such as putting your twitter feed in a less distracting location, or projecting a Skype session onto a wall. The Lamp can also take snapshots of the work area, allowing you to quickly scan and share work documents seamlessly across multiple devices.

Besides tracking your hands and fingers, the camera and image processing software could detect objects in the work space, such as a canned soft drink, and automatically display targeted advertising around it. One potential application would be projecting rich media, including product information, in a retail setting. In effect, browsing a store's display could incorporate the same media and interactivity as a product web site.

The LuminAR project was developed through 2010, and showcased earlier this year at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

See how it works in this video summarizing its development.

Source: Fluid Interfaces Group, via Mashable

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers. All articles by Jason Falconer

Intriguing concept! One step closer to having a micro-computer in your pocket that does everything you need it to.

Joel Detrow

Ce projet, j'en ai un peu rêvé. Il me le faut! I need this!!!!

Ariel Dahan

Doesn't seem user-friendly to me. The instant you get your hands near it, a large shadow of your hand is casted on the surface.

Sambath Pech

"Doesn't seem user-friendly to me. The instant you get your hands near it, a large shadow of your hand is casted on the surface. "

Then you are spoiled rotten. The purpose of having the projector in the lamp is so it is out of the way, to avoid this shadow problem as much as possible. Besides, you will still see the projection on your hand. No projection or touch display is without its problems.

If you are in a position to do better, then please go work for or acquire controlling stake in one of the many companies still producing resistive touch displays, and force them migrate to capacitive touch. Do it with an iron fist on bullet-proof plexi-glass if you have to; then you can sneer all you want at anyone else who still uses resistive touch.

Andrew Sinclair

dont particularly care for capacitive touch myself. Since I'm not in kindergarten and dont need to finger paint. Give me a stylus, I'm an adult.

Artisteroi Rlsh Gadgeteer

plus I bet it heats up a lot.

Artisteroi Rlsh Gadgeteer

Contrived video of a rube goldberg solution looking for a nonexistent problem. Which of course means it's probably the next big thing.

Fritz Menzel

Minority Report anyone?

Tom Sobieski

Better to project a simple 1.5-octave piano keyboard from in front of the hands and thereby need only linear/binary tracking of keypresses. "Polyphonic" macro capabilities would enable 6-10 times the speed of input compared to querty. I made the software available for $5, beginning in 2001 for midi-to-pc setups, but it will work with anything, redirecting midi codes to the keyboard listener. It's called Stormkey.

Roger Wasson

On the upside, it's probably way more responsive to typing than the Surface RT; on the down, no way are you gonna dodge things by one pixel in Touhou games. Handing your project in by putting it into the professor's desk lamp is pretty cool.

Having a bogus keyboard with wonky velocity sounds like pure hate, though; did you have a keyboardist who broke instruments? I mean, The Smiths could consider it, but you know, it's just the MP now who'd go fo that.

Paravectorno Extactini

Even without the robotic arm, this is just amazing. Every surface of your work space becomes a touch screen monitor.

Seth Miesters

How about using this but from under a glass table so that the hand does not stop the reflection?

Dany Leblanc
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