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Peering into the sci-fi future of PC displays

Brad Chacos | April 1, 2013
Moore's law may keep us supplied with octa-core smartphone processors and PCs packed with millions of transistors, but not all areas of technology keep the pedal to the proverbial metal as enthusiastically as the chip technology. Specifically, desktop displays--the portals through which we glimpse the output of those hulking CPUs--are stuck in neutral while the technology in the rest of your PC tears ahead at breakneck speed.

No more! (Or, more accurately, maybe no more one day!) USCICT's technology turns videoconferencers into 3D talking heads by projecting a real-time, high-speed video of the speaker onto a spit-polished aluminum mirror rotating more than 15 times a second. "Effectively, the mirror reflects 144 unique views of the scene across a 180-degree field of view with an angular view separation of 1.25 degrees," the research group's website explains.

On the videoconferencer's side, the 3D Video Teleconferencing System displays a feed of the people at the receiving end gaping at the holographic floating head. The system tracks the remote videoconferencer's head position and gaze, allowing the virtual 3D head to establish eye contact and turn from speaker to speaker during a meeting. (And you thought the autofocus feature in Google+ Hangouts was cool!)

Don't care about real-time chatting? The USCICT team has used similar technology to create 3D images that can be walked around and observed in a full 360 degrees. Bonus points: This 3D is autostereoscopic!

The short term

Finally, here's a futuristic display goal that, while not quite as ambitious as the rest of the entries, might be a bit more realistic. A sweet multi-monitor setup might not change the way you look at data, but, hey, pixel densities have only increased while display prices have dropped (albeit slowly) over time. Now that's value. And if you poo-poo a six-panel, 5760-by-2400-pixel rig as the pinnacle of excess, you've obviously never used one.

 

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