The MisTable projects images onto a wall of fog in front of each user, which can be manipulated and pushed onto a central display

Interactive fog displays to enhance collaboration

A tabletop display combined with screens made from a curtain of mist that allow images to be manipulated and pushed onto the display, will be unveiled this month.

The MisTable project has created a tabletop system that combines a conventional touch-enabled interactive table with four personal screens that project images onto a wall of fog between the user and the tabletop surface, allowing them to move the images around on the personal screen and even push them onto the table display where other users can access the image.

The personal screens are both see-through and reach-through. The see-through feature provides direct line of sight of the personal screen and the elements behind it on the tabletop while the reach-through feature allows the user to switch from interacting with the personal screen to reaching through it to interact with the tabletop or the space above it.

"MisTable broadens the potential of conventional tables in many novel and unique ways,” said Professor Sriram Subramanian, who leads the study at the University of Bristol’s Interaction and Graphics group alongside Dr Diego Martinez Plasencia.

“The personal screen provides direct line of sight and access to the different interaction spaces. Users can be aware of each other's actions and can easily switch between interacting with the personal screen to the tabletop surface or the interaction section. This allows users to break in or out of shared tasks and switch between ‘individual’ and ‘group’ work.

"Users can also move content freely between these interaction spaces. Moving content between the tabletop and the personal screen allow users to share it with others or to get exclusive ownership over it. The research team believe MisTable could support new forms of interaction and collaboration in the future."

The personal screen allows a range of customisations and novel interactions such as presenting 2D personal content on the screen, 3D content above the tabletop or supplementing and renewing actual objects differently for each user.

With the new system, having personal screens for each user allows the view of each of the users to be customised to them, as well as maintaining all well-established tabletop interface techniques like touch and tangible interactions.

A research paper on the work will be presented at human-computer interface conference ACM CHI 2014, which runs from 26 April to 1 May.

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