Are fog screens the future of computing?
Users are able to 'reach through', interact with others on touch devices, say inventors
Interactive computer screens made from mist could be the future of computing, if a new technology developed by researchers at the University of Bristol, UK, takes off.
MisTable is a tabletop display with personal screens made from a curtain of mist that allows users to move images around and push through the fog-screens and onto the display. It will be unveiled at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Toronto from 26 April to 1 May.
Led by Professor Sriram Subramanian and Dr Diego Martinez Plasencia from the University of Bristol's Department of Computer Science, the invention lets users switch from interacting on a personal fog screen, to "reaching through" it and interacting together on the touch screen tabletop, or the space above it.
Subramanian, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction, in the University's Bristol Interaction and Graphics group, said: "MisTable broadens the potential of conventional tables in many novel and unique ways. The personal screen provides direct line of sight and access to the different interaction spaces. Users can be aware of each other's actions and can easily switch between interacting with the personal screen to the tabletop surface or the interaction section. This allows users to break in or out of shared tasks and switch between 'individual' and 'group' work.
"Users can also move content freely between these interaction spaces. Moving content between the tabletop and the personal screen allows users to share it with others or to get exclusive ownership over it. The research team believes MisTable could support new forms of interaction and collaboration in the future."
The personal screen allows a range of customisations and novel interactions such as presenting 2D personal content on the screen, 3D content above the tabletop or supplementing and renewing actual objects differently for each user.
With the new system, having personal screens for each user allows the view of each of the users to be customised to them, as well as maintaining all well-established tabletop interface techniques like touch and tangible interactions.
The University of Bristol believes MisTable could change the way people interact and collaborate in the future.