Imagine pulling objects and data out of the screen and playing with these in mid-air. Exciting new technologies, which allow users to change the shape of displays with their hands, promise to revolutionise the way we interact with smartphones, laptops and computers.
Source: European Commission
Today we live in a world of flat-screen displays we use all day – whether it’s the computer in the office, a smartphone on the train home, the TV or iPad on the couch in the evening.
The world we live in is not flat, though; it’s made of hills and valleys, people and objects. Imagine if we could use our fingertips to manipulate the display and drag features out of it into our 3D world.
The human-machine interaction will be brought to a new level. Or, rather, to the third dimension
Such a vision led to the launch in January 2013 of GHOST (Generic, Highly-Organic Shape-Changing Interfaces), a FET-funded research project designed to tap humans’ ability to reason about and manipulate physical objects through the interfaces of computers and mobile devices.
“This will have all sorts of implications for the future, from everyday interaction with mobile phones to learning with computers and design work,” explained GHOST coordinator Professor Kasper Hornbæk of the University of Copenhagen.
“It’s not only about deforming the shape of the screen, but also the digital object you want to manipulate, maybe even in mid-air. Through ultrasound levitation technology, for example, we can project the display out of the flat screen. And thanks to deformable screens we can plunge our fingers into it.”
This breakthrough in user interaction with technology allows us to handle objects, and even data, in a completely new way. A surgeon, for instance, will be able to work on a virtual brain physically, with the full tactile experience, before performing a real-life operation.
Designers and artists using physical proxies such as clay can mould and remould objects and store them in the computer as they work. GHOST researchers are also working with deformable interfaces such as pads and sponges for musicians to flex to control timbre, speed and other parameters in electronic music.
Research projects in this story
The GHOST project targets an enhancement of current display interfaces. This is based on the development of malleable displays which humans could shape when performing input-output operations. Contrarily to present-day, bidimensional displays, such tools would stimulate human thinking and imagination by providing it with access to the the third dimension.