We've been waiting for Star Trek-style Holodeck technology since, what, 1966? Microsoft Research has finally taken up the challenge and developed this — it's not quite a Holodeck, but it's tantalisingly close.
The HoloDesk, as Microsoft has dubbed it, uses an overhead screen to project a 2D image down through a half-silvered beam-splitter onto the desktop below. A webcam situated between the screen and beam-splitter and facial recognition software track the users gaze allowing the user to view objects projected onto the desk as if they were really there — move your head and the objects perspective changes to match.
An attached Kinect tracks the user's movements within the desk-space, allowing him to manipulate the projected items. As you can see from the video above, objects can be stacked, rolled, and juggled as if they were really there. And it doesn't just respond to hands — physical objects like bowls and paper sheets can also be used to move items in the system.
This is currently only a research project, so the chances of it actually hitting market are slim to none. However this does represent an important step forward in data manipulation. Instead of trying to model an image of, say, protein molecules on a 2D computer screen, researchers could one day touch, twist and examine a 3D model of it with their bare hands. [The Next Web]