The new cursor is being demonstrated using the university's Hyve-3D design environment

New cursor to reinvent interaction in 3D environments

Scientists have unveiled a new kind of computer cursor especially designed to work in 3D environments like those used in structural design and medical imaging.

Using a tablet as a "control plane" users are able to select objects in 3D space by sweeping the cursor across them, before manipulating them using back-and-forth, up-and-down, pinching and other gestures to move them around in the virtual environment.

The cursor was demonstrated by researchers at the University of Montreal at the SIGGRAPH 2015 Conference in Los Angeles using the team's Hyve-3D design system - a full scale immersive 3D environment that lets users create drawings on hand held tablets that can then be translated into a 3D design space.

"Our new technology challenges the notion of what a cursor is and does," explained lead researcher Professor Tomás Dorta, of the university's School of Design. "The cursor becomes a drawing and controlling plane.

"The techniques we're unveiling today involves using a tablet to control the cursor, but as it does not necessarily rely on external tracking of the user's movements, eventually other devices could be used, such as smart phones or watches."

The Hyve-3D system uses a high-resolution projector and a dome mirror to project the 3D environment onto a specially designed 5m-diameter spherically concave fabric screen, which creates an immersive 3D projection that can be controlled in real-time.

Univalor, the university's technology commercialization unit, is supporting the market launch of the Hyve-3D system and the 3D cursor, via the startup Hybridlab, which has several patents pending.

"Beyond its utility for sketching, we believe the 3D cursor has applications in a wide range of fields, such as architectural design, medical imaging and of course computer games," said Dorta. "This isn't a gimmicky rebirth of the cursor, it's about rethinking how humans interact with computers as part of the creative process."

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