Imagine taking an object, creating a virtual 3-D image of it and moving it around with your hands instead of with a mouse and a keyboard.
Microsoft showed a prototype of software and hardware called MirageBlocks at Techfest in Redmond on Tuesday that had these abilities..
"It blurs the line between the physical and virtual world," said Hvroje Benko, a researcher at Microsoft Research in Redmond.
Using a 3-D projector, a Kinect motion sensor, a computer and white cardboard, Benko took a digital image of a Sesame Street Ernie doll, projected it on cardboard in 3-D and used his hands to move the digital image of Ernie. It required glasses to see the image in three dimensions.
He did the same with children's building blocks. He took an image of a block, made copies of the image and projected the virtual blocks on cardboard. Then he stacked the virtual blocks on top of each other.
It could potentially have applications for industrial designers, inventory management and e-commerce. Benko said designers in different locations could use this technology to work together, or online stores could offer the ability for customers to virtually try on clothes.
Techfest is a multiday fair this week for Microsoft employees to peek at projects from Microsoft Research, the group in the company that does academic research. The projects shown this week, including MirageBlocks, may or may not become part of commercial products from Microsoft.