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Why floors, walls and ceilings are the next interface

Mike Elgan | April 13, 2015
We already have the technology. It's just not cheap enough yet.

lumo alphabet floor
The Lumo projector turns walls and floors into interactive play spaces for children. The animations respond to kids' hands and feet.  Credit: Lumo

It's a cliché to say that in the past few decades "everything has become computerized" and that the power and quality of our computers has increased massively.

What hasn't changed much is the size of the interface. Sure, some of us have large monitors, or many monitors (you know who you are). But the vast majority of us interact with our computers and the Internet through a small rectangle (on a laptop, tablet or phone) that we place in front of our faces.

We take for granted that to interact with computers is to block out the world around us (and the people around us) as we focus on these glowing screens.

But after all these years of "computerization," something wonderful is about to happen: Our interface to the world of computers will leap off of the screen and onto the walls, floors, ceilings, tabletops, windows and other surfaces in our homes and offices, and in public spaces.

Here's what's happening.

Lumo

The Lumo interactive projector turns walls and floors into interactive play spaces for children. It casts a 4-by-6-ft. animated scene onto any flat surface. Kids can play Lumo games, such as air hockey, or experience virtual environments, such as flowing lava. And the animations respond to kids' hands and feet.

Kids can also treat the floor or wall like a giant iPad, drawing pictures and then interacting with them. The Lumo system will ship with 100 games. Custom game designs can be tailored to a child's age. The projector runs on Android, and the company will offer an SDK so developers can create games and apps for the system.

Lumo is raising money on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. The projector will cost $549 when it ships in December, if all goes according to plan.

Personally, I don't think children need their imaginations enhanced by microprocessor-based technology -- they'll turn the floor into lava with or without computer assistance. But I do think adults need their imaginations enhanced. And if need is too strong a word, then we'll certainly want our imaginations enhanced.

Luckily for all of us, Lumo represents the most rudimentary application of an idea that is on the verge of going mainstream: The use of existing surfaces -- floors, walls, ceilings, tables and even windows -- as interactive computer displays. (Yeah, get ready for Microsoft Windows-based windows.)

The benefits of such environmental displays (turning everyday surfaces into interactive computer displays) are found in Lumo marketing efforts, which apply to both adults and children. Lumo says that with floor and wall displays, kids will focus on each other, rather than on a screen. They'll be active in their environment, rather than sitting motionless.

 

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