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Microsoft's Kinect turns any surface into a touchscreen

Startup firm übi has developed a system that uses a projector and a Kinect sensor to turn any surface or wall into a touchscreen.

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Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
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Andrew Lanxon
2 min read

Thanks to some busy hands at German startup übi, a Microsoft Kinect sensor, together with a projector, is able to turn any wall or surface into a multi-touch display.

It might sound far-fetched, but it works perfectly well, Wired.co.uk explains. In the demo shown off in Microsoft's HQ in Seattle, a projector shone the Windows desktop onto a pane of glass. A Kinect sensor on the other side was used to track the movements of the user, allowing him or her to interact with Windows using touch, in exactly the same way you would with a Windows tablet or using a mouse on a regular computer.

The Kinect system works natively with the Windows touch-screen interface, meaning the icons can be clicked by touch and photos can be zoomed in and out of using multi-touch gestures, all of which the system supports. Thanks to the 3D mapping of Kinect, it's able to tell when you've made a full click, rather than hover your finger above the screen, allowing you to flick through pages or scroll around, without selecting things with each movement.

In the demo video, the system seems to work very well, with multi-touch zooming on maps software seeming accurate and responsive. Angry Birds looked perfectly playable too, although the guy giving the demo clearly needed some practice.

übi -- no relation to game giant Ubisoft -- is mainly focusing on selling the system to businesses and marketers, ideally providing projector and Kinect sets as interactive presentation systems for workspaces and allowing advertisers to create interactive adverts for public spaces.

There are so far no plans to launch this as a general consumer item, so you might have to wait a few years before you can snap one onto your laptop and turn your wall into a Minority Report-style touch-wall (yeah, I thought it'd be much sooner too). But with phones and cameras arriving on the scene packing projectors and the relatively low price of Kinect sensors, it probably won't be too long before you'll be able to rig something up in your house.

Would you enjoy waving your hands in front of a window? Or do you prefer our current, more discrete forms of computer interaction? Scribble your thoughts below, or over on our Facebook page.