Powerful computers are becoming small and cheap enough to cram into all sorts of everyday objects. Natan Linder, a student at MIT’s Media Lab, thinks that fitting one inside a light bulb socket, together with a camera and projector, could provide a revolutionary new kind of interface—by turning any table or desk into a simple touch screen.
The LuminAR device, created by Linder and colleagues at the Media Lab, can project interactive images onto a surface, sensing when a person’s finger or hand points to an element within those images. Linder describes LuminAR as an augmented-reality system because the images and interfaces it projects can alter the function of a surface or object. While LuminAR might seem like a far-fetched concept, many large technology companies are experimenting with new kinds of computer interfaces in hopes of discovering new markets for their products (see “Google Game Could Be Augmented Reality’s First Killer App” and ”A New Chip to Bring 3-D Gesture Control to Smartphones”).
Linder’s system uses a camera, a projector, and software to recognize objects and project imagery onto or around them, and also to function as a scanner. It connects to the Internet using Wi-Fi. Some capabilities of the prototype, such as object recognition, rely partly on software running on a remote cloud server.