updated 03:20 pm EDT, Sat April 17, 2010
pCube and Holocube promise 3D displays
Developers at the Computer Human Interface conference and elsewhere this week have been showing new approaches to displays that could allow interaction with a perceived 3D environment. The pCube (video below) from the University of British Columbia is unique in depending on LCDs on each side to create a 3D perspective accurate from every angle. Besides letting users view an object from every angle, it has an accelerometer to respond to motion and sensors that respond to an in-air device to interact with the inside of the cube, although it doesn't yet support touch.
The hardware inside depends on NVIDIA's PhysX math system for the complex physics and, by necessity, an unnamed NVIDIA graphics core. Researchers noted that current display technology made the bezels thick but that a future OLED version could be much more seamless. While a timetable for a practical application hasn't been set, those at the university expect that it could be used not just to analyze subjects in 'real' 3D but to produce gaming devices and other handhelds where seeing multiple angles could be useful.
Separately, Holocube has demonstrated a touch-aware version of its own 3D display approach. Called just Holocube Touch, it uses a 3D hologram projector with a front transparent surface that can respond to finger input for things such as 3D menus. A timetable for its release wasn't given, but Holocube is developing a 42-inch non-touch version of its holographic display.
Either technology isn't necessarily practical in its current form but may inform both long-term displays as well as nearer practical inventions, such as perspective-aware single surface displays that shift the point of view depending on tilt.