Melding tradition and technology, shadow lamps are a new way of keeping up with your friends in Japan. Less intrusive than a web cam, the system pipes a live video feed from your friends houses via the internet, and projects their silhouettes onto a lampshade - rather like the iPod commercials. The inspiration, according to creator Shunpei Yasuda, comes from the paper walls found in traditional Japanese houses.
Users of the system are identified by a smart card, which slots into the base of the lamp, or andon, where there is a projector. By swapping cards, friends can find out what the other person is up to merely by slotting someone else's card into their andon. The projector takes input from a video camera in the other person's home and, via software processing, reduces the video input to nothing more than an outline of the person whose card is in the slot, displaying it on the inside wall of the lamp.
The prototype uses a touch screen on the lamp, enabling the user to make a voice call merely by touching the silhouette of the person he or she wants to talk to. Each andon can display up to four people's silhouettes on their screens.
According to Mr Yasuda, a post-graduate student in Media Design at Japan's Keio University, the Teleshadow preserves the privacy of its users, unlike video, which can give away info that people would rather remained private. [BBC News]