Interactive Projection and Visual Display System

As I walked into the office, floating above the coffee table in the middle of the room was the head of a man welcoming me. I realized it was a video, but displaying without a screen. The image was being presented on air emanating from the coffee table. This is just one example of screenless display, but imagine sitting in your living room, turning on your cable box and your favorite movie is shown floating three feet in front of you with the use of optical technology. This new technology, along with others, is at the forefront in being able to watch video and interact with images without the use of a screen.

The floating image described above was provided by a device created by IO2 technology called the Heliodisplay which transforms normal ambient air and presents video images into free-space. The system is about the size of a large computer tower turned on its size and its displays allow for unobtrusive imagery, so video, images or advertising can be positioned in mid-air while the display is hidden within a counter, coffee table, pedestal or furniture. The system is also interactive similar to a virtual touchscreen. A hand or finger can act as a mouse for cursor control interactivity in a computer environment without the use of a special glove or pointing device. Just as you use a mouse to move the cursor on a traditional computer monitor, you can use your finger to move the cursor around the Heliodisplay image. This system excludes the use of a screen and instead makes use of a constant flow of air from the device to show the image seemingly floating in space.

Another approach in moving to screenless television is by using a thin curtain of "dry" fog that serves as a translucent projection screen, displaying images that literally float in the air as with the Fogscreen system. The result: stunning, attention-demanding spectacles - which is why FogScreen projection screen is used so often at product launches, trade shows, restaurants, nightclubs, museums, casinos and other venues. While this technology has not found a more mainstream use as in television, it has taken great strides in projection screen technology. We may find ourselves one day watching movies in our home on our very own system.

The biggest impact in screenless technology has been seen in the use of optical technology. Whether talking of VRD (virtual retinal display), RSD (retinal scanning display) or LOE (light-guide optical element), optical technology is being used by consumer electronic corporations like Apple to the military and even the health care industry. Optical technology enables personal screenless displays by projecting images and data from computers, DVD players, or VCRs into the viewer's eye, displaying them in the visual field of the viewer. For instance, Microvision Inc. has created helmet mounted displays in which an Army tank commander can view the surrounding area from topside while still viewing a translucent map that floats a couple of feet away.

There are consumer products which are available today that use this technology as in the Ipod Video Goggles. The video goggles utilize two 24-bit color SolidOptex LCD's to provide 320 x 240 resolution at a 50-60 Hz frame rate to give a view that's about equivalent to viewing a 243 screen at around 6 feet away. This hands-free, personal iPod video watching experience doesn't come real cheap however; the iPod goggles will run you about $200 each. Another example are the head up displays used in automobiles today in which your speed, driving directions or any gauge information can be displayed unobtrusively to the driver. This technology not only serves as a replacement for the tubes used in our televisions, but to increase our safety and performance in our everyday lives.

James Junior is a freelance writer and web programmer for