Who doesn't remember the scene in Minority Report when Tom Cruise's character uses the non-contact display interface to rotate and manipulate 3-D images and information by hand gesture? Well, I sure do anyway. And, it seems like researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut HHI in Berlin have developed a display that does just that. Aside from being super cool there are some obvious clinical uses for this sort of of 3D imaging in the medical field as it has proven itself to be a boon to doctors when diagnosing patients, and 3D models of the human body have assisted medical manufacturers in developing better medical devices and treatments.
The display itself was in fact developed for medical use in environments where touching things runs the risk of compromising a sterile environment. With the newly developed non-contact control system a physician can rotate a three-dimensional CAT scan image that appears to float before their eyes with a gesture of their fingers, while with another gesture they can "click," onto the next image.
The system works by utilizing images from three cameras, two of which are installed above the display and a third which is integrated into the frame of the display. The two cameras above the display see the pointing finger from different angles, allowing an image-processor to identify the exact position and location of the finger in a three-dimensional space. The third camera scans the user's face and eyes to identify the inclination of the their head and the direction in which the eyes are focused. Then, associated software generates an appropriate pair of stereoscopic images for each eye. Sort of like 3-D on the fly. The cameras record one hundred frames per minute so, even if the user moves their head around some, the system instantly adapts the images. Pretty slick.
“In this way, the user always sees a high-quality three-dimensional image on the display, even while moving about. This is essential in an operating theater, and allows the physician to act naturally when carrying out routine tasks,” says Wolfgang Schlaak, who heads the department that developed the display, “The unique feature of this system is that it combines a 3-D display screen with a non-contact user interface.”