Networkworld has discovered a rather interesting patent, applied for by Redmond company Microsoft, that would allow them to produce a holographic meeting place, as well as a few other intriguing ideas.
The holographic meetings, or 'Virtual Office Devices' are just what you would imagine; a user would see holograms of other meeting attendees, whilst projecting their own for the others to view. Unfortunately, there is no proper specifics on the hardware or software behind this, but there is a range of pictures included to show how this would be achieved. One of the people credited with this invention is Patrice Simard, who is the chief scientist and manager of Windows Live Labs. This is notable as Simard also has a range of other ideas under his belt; according to Networkworld, "some for machine learning, activity detection, digital ink and a whiteboard imaging system." We have included an image of the concept behind this is included below, from the patent web page.
So, what are these other "intriguing ideas", you ask? One of these is a patent for gestures as mouse commands, or a "user interface with physics engine for natural gestural control." The patent application describes it as, "A method for causing an action in response to user input, the method comprising the steps of:accepting a gesture from a user on a touch sensitive surface; determining a type of gesture that has been accepted by the touch sensitive surface using a sensor array and a single mechanical, momentary contact switch activated by the sensor array; and performing an action in response to the type of gesture that has been accepted, the action at least in part simulating behavior of a physically embodied object." Apparently, this technology could also be implemented into Microsoft's Surface table, allowing for gestures above the device, as opposed to physically touching it. To put it lightly, the future of technology is an extremely exciting one.
Lastly, we have what Microsoft calls the "Magic Wand." This is similar to the Nintendo Wii's controller, except for the fact that it is shaped like a wand. Apparently, this could be used to, "manipulate and interact with its environment, including video and holographic images, while using biometrics to connect with the user," meaning it can recognize who is using it, and even potentially allow voice communication. The patent for this was actually applied for back in November of 2007, but only just became public in the last couple of days.
Very interesting devices indeed, and although they are just (probably) concepts for now, it will be interesting to see where the future of these three lie.