Off Surface UIEveryone has become familiar with touch technology in the 21st century, both with and without haptic feedback. But touchscreen interfaces controlled by a finger or stylus aren’t the only methods of user interface in the Age of Technology. Holographic reflection, infrared detection and thought projection are just some of the cutting-edge interface options available for those seeking alternative methods to enhance the user experience.

Thought Projection

EPOC, the astounding BCI headset developed by Emotiv, aspires to bridge the communication gap between man and machine via our brainwaves. This surprisingly low-profile headset responds to the neural activity of the user. Highly sensitive sensors detect not only focused thoughts of the user, but also read subconscious brainwave activities triggered by the thought process itself.

In order to accomplish a task using Emotiv’s BCI, a user doesn’t necessarily have to think in a strictly directive fashion. In this related TED video, a man wearing an EPOC headset stares at a virtual cube on a monitor. In an effort to pull the floating cube toward him, the subject is not instructed to conjure any internal dialogue (“pull the cube”), but rather to simply imagine the cube coming closer to the surface of the screen.

Infrared Detection

Whaptics ® utilizes an advanced implementation of infrared optical technology combined with software and embedded electronics. Developer H2i technologies has produced two versions of Whaptics for other developers, integrators and OEM manufacturers to design and create their own types of user interfaces and custom concepts.

The Whaptics 1 version utilizes pass-thru detection technology, which essentially scans the air up to 6cm above a surface and translates gestures and finger placement without having to touch the surface. Whaptics 2 is a version using surface detection technology, which essentially does the same thing as the first version, but utilizes side scanning of a surface to detect finger position.

Holographic Reflection

The Musion Eyeliner System is a unique high definition video projection system which creates freeform three-dimensional moving images to appear within a live stage setting. Any kind of effect which can be applied to video can also be applied to the hologram. Virtual concerts, multi-way teleconferencing and live interaction with the hologram are only a few of the applied uses imagined so far.

Eyeliner does not require any special props or elaborate setups. One camera and one projector is the extent of the complicated equipment. There is no need even for special glasses. Projected images can range in size from 50cm square up to an immense 20 meter x 100 meter and still remain startling real to viewers. Attack of the 50-Foot Woman would certainly make a different impression!

New interface technologies and designs are emerging all of the time. One day, we may look back on touch technology as quaint and antiquated as we view examples on our retinal displays with but mere thoughts. Who knows what the future holds, but the non-surface innovations we can see today certainly indicate it may be a promising one.