Research: MS SecondLight

With the new Secondlight prototype Microsoft has added another dimension to its touchscreen technology called Surface.

The two build-in projectors allow to display different images in a way that looks simultaneous to the eye. Microsoft presented the new technology during the PDC and has provided some additional technical details earlier this month.

While one image is displayed onto the large screen and can be manipulated with gestures the second projector can create an independent image on a flat or 3D surface like a piece of paper or a Plexiglas cylinder.

Microsoft provided some very interesting sample applications like a lens that when moved over a 3D display of a car shows technical details underneath, displaying additional information like text or moving images on a sheet of paper, or displaying a map on the second display linked to a satellite image.

From MS technical paper on Secondlight
“…We introduce a new type of interactive surface technology based on a switchable projection screen which can be made diffuse or clear under electronic control. The screen can be continuously toggled between these two states so quickly that the switching is imperceptible to the human eye. It is then possible to rear-project what is perceived as a stable image onto the display surface, when the screen is in fact transparent for half the time. The clear periods may be used to project a second, different image through the display onto objects held above the surface. At the same time, a camera mounted behind the screen can see out into the environment. We explore some of the possibilities this type of screen technology affords, allowing surface computing interactions to extend „beyond the display?. We present a single self-contained system that combines these off-screen interactions with more typical multi-touch and tangible surface interactions. We describe the technical challenges in realizing our system, with the aim of allowing others to experiment with these new forms of interactive surfaces…”

While similar effects (e.g. lens) could also be created in software alone, unique to MS new prototype is the added physical dimension. The technology behind uses two off-the-shelf Hitachi CPX1 60Hz projectors (max resolution 1600×1200 Pixels now out of production) for its initial setup in combination with fast optical shutters to create the two interleaved 60Hz images and two high-res Imaging Source DMK 21BF04 FireWire cameras fitted with IR pass filters to limit sensing to the infrared spectrum. More detailed technical / background information in the MS Research paper below.

We’ve found two videos that demonstrate some of the different aspects of this impressive prototype. Additional images are available in the MS Research paper.

Click on the image below for the link (multimedia)

link to YouTube video

More information:
MS Research paper
MS SecondLight at MS Research web site
MS Surface additional information

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