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SideBySide: Interacting handheld projectors

Is gaming the killer app for handheld projectors? Disney is aiming to be in the game.

projected cartoon boxers
Interactive gaming breaks free of screens.
Video screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

What's cooler than a pair of handheld projectors? A pair of handheld projectors that interact with each other. SideBySide is a prototype handheld projector system from Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University. Aim two of the devices at adjacent spots on a surface, and the projected images react to one another.

In one application, a pair of cartoon boxers square off. When the characters are close to each other, fists fly. In another, a giant ape and a jet fighter do battle. There's also potential for engineering and productivity applications. (See the video below.)

The images interact because the devices project invisible infrared control signals along with the visible projections. Infrared cameras in the handheld units detect the control projections. This makes each unit aware of its own projections and those of other units. When the projections are close to each other or overlap, the animations change.

There's work to do to make SideBySide useful. The prototype's images are monochromatic, and the only control you have is aiming the projections. The handheld projectors need onboard game controllers to give users more control over the animations.

Another hurdle is that the projections need to be bright and sharp. This is a challenge for handheld devices, especially in terms of energy drain.

Still, the potential is there for a cool toy. Imagine SideBySide bolstered with location awareness and object recognition. The kids could scurry around the house looking for hidden characters and stashed treasure. Furniture and appliances could become settings for adventures and battles: sofa as mountain range, dresser as fortress--like when we had to rely on our imaginations, only better.

(Via New Scientist)