Microsoft Research reveals amazing HoloDesk demo [video]

By Tom Warren, on 20th Oct 11 3:05 pm with 52 Comments

Microsoft’s Research team revealed one of their latest projects on Wednesday.

“HoloDesk” is the latest in Microsoft’s work on natural user interface (NUI). The project was born in the Sensors and Devices group at Microsoft Research cambridge. HoloDesk lets users manipulate 3D virtual images with their hands. Microsoft blogger Steve Clayton introduced the technology on Wednesday and says he “can envisage future applications in areas such as board gaming, rapid prototype design or perhaps even telepresence, where users would share a single 3D scene viewed from different perspectives.”

The technology is similar to augmented reality approaches. Clayton notes that the use of beam-splitters and a graphic processing algorithm sets its apart from other 3D interaction experiments. The HoloDesk project is the latest in a string of Microsoft Research projects unveiled this week. The software giant revealed its “OmniTouch” technology earlier this week alongside “PocketTouch“. OmniTouch is a research project designed to turn any surface into a touch screen. The project makes use of a Kinect style camera to project output and capture input. Microsoft’s PocketTouch work involves a custom sensor to allow users to control smartphones through clothing.

For more information on Microsoft’s HoloDesk project, please see Microsoft’s Research site or watch the video below.

  • Anonymous

    OMG! Just think of the future of possibilities!

    I’ll virtually hurt you :P

    • Tom W

      Can you imagine the carnage in a HoloDesk virtual comments version of a WinRumors post on Apple or Google vs Microsoft?!

    • The_Don
    • Adam Paris

      So? Its a dual display with 3D. its not interactive.

      I see the possibilities, but the current system works too different to be able to put in a phone.

  • abhi

    Wow, how far we have some. Wonder if this will ever make it to market. It could be very big in prototyping and collaboration markets.

  • Anonymous

    But the iSheep and fandroids tell me MS doesn’t innovate.

    • Eingoluq

      ITs funny, innovation means either you introduce something new or you improve upon something that already exists. I personally rate introducing new tech over improving, although the two types are just as important.
      That said I see microsoft introducing cooler “new” concepts more than both google and apple but then again Microsoft’s research budget far exceeds both google and apple.

    • Anonymous

      But hey, Google introduced NFC into their Android phones.  Its a whole new innovative way for them to track what you purchase.

    • Anonymous
    • Anonymous

      @Narseal:disqus : Haha, don’t worry, I know I was making a baseless tin-foil hat attack on Google.  Linux fans do it to MS all the time (Windows 8 secure boot feature) so I figured I’ll resort to the same foolishness.

    • Robert Wade

      I could be wrong, but I think NFC was introduced into feature phones over in Japan LONG before OEMS started adding that to Android phones.  Again, it’s possible I’m remembering incorrectly, but I think it’s right.  If true, then Google didn’t innovate diddly.  Which, now that I think of it, nothing about their devices is really innovative, no more than PCs have been really innovative.  If anyone can claim hardware innovations, I think Apple could make it.  If anyone could make the claim to OS innovation, I think Microsoft’s WP7 was the most innovative.

    • Guest

      Microsux doesn’t innovate. It was probably stolen from Apple. The EU and DJ MUST investigate this!

    • Guest

      Welcome new moron, er troll.

    • Guest

      Lab experiments != products people can buy

    • oolong2

      Microsoft researches tech for years…. They were doing multitouch way before Apple decided to buy FingerWorks.

      They also do a lot of research in assiting DNA analysis, cancer research, etc.

      Yes most people and bloggers only care about “stuff they can buy”, but I’m glad that Microsoft spends so much money in research and assisting universities, etc.

      IMO technology should be just as much about lifting humanity  as it is about getting a jump on the competition.

  • Chris Woelfel

    Wow. Literally made my jaw drop for a moment.

  • Anonymous

    After this and the Interactive Projection Demo we saw the other day I don’t see how they say MS is not innovative.  I guess it’s because APPLE releases something similar first and the masses then say MS copied.  Wrong!

    • Anonymous

      except what apple might end up releasing first would be a projector with a single button that would probably activate Siri and that could care less where you press as long as it thinks you pressed or if you didn’t press it will press for you and people would call that intuitive…

  • Anonymous

    This is so incredible that I’m literally speechless.
    Kinect FTW!!!

  • The_Don

    Tom you beat me to it, but here’s what I was going to say
    anyway :-)


    Hey Guys,


    Was browsing the net and came across this Microsoft technology
    that’s in development.



    As I’m sure you can imagine, I was blown away by it, but had
    this annoying case of déjà vu. After racking my brain, I remembered where I had
    seen something similar to this. It was in the Patent that Nokia filed a little
    while back



    Since I’m a big fan of Nokia phones I became even more
    excited, but couldn’t help but question why it was a nokia patent and not a Microsoft
    patent. My mind then went back to other scenarios where I had seen the
    companies overlap ideas. Remember that video Microsoft released showing a
    glimpse of the future?



    Parts of that video then showed up in the apparent leaked Nokia
    WP7 video



    Don’t know if that video was a fake or not, but it looked
    quite convincing right?

    This started to make me think, “Hey maybe the rumours are
    true. Maybe Microsoft will buyout Nokia” or at least come into some sort of
    manufacturing agreement similar to Google & Samsung’s Nexus Partnership.

    Either way, It looks like we got some exciting times ahead
    of us with windows phone. Bear in mind the Holodesk technology Microsoft is
    working on utilises Kinect, so if my suspicions are correct, we could be
    getting kinect in our phones in the not too distant future. Awesome!!!


    Oh yeah, check what Mary Jo Foley spotted from Ballmer’s
    recent comments on whether Microsoft would build its own phone.



    I know I could be wrong about all of this, but it’s kinda
    interesting when you put all this information together. What do u think?

    • Adam Paris

      You are thinking too much. And edit your post please. Its annoyingly long with too much white space.

    • The_Don

      Chill out man! I’m just excited as everyone else is. I’m new to posting comments so big white spaces were not intentional.

    • Eingoluq

      He’s being reasonable.
      Be a good sport and edit it down a lil. I know you want to be seen, but you are being counter productive if people are too annoyed to read it. A nice compact post is all you need.

    • Lewis McCrary

      Oi! The white space! It burns!

    • The_Don

      Sorry, How do I edit?

  • Pedro Roque

    I see much potential for a Microsoft / Vivid collaboration on this technology!

  • Anonymous

    Yup, Microsoft is awesome.

    On a side note, lets doesn’t just become another Courier. 

  • Reddo

    how can I get a job there?

    • Guest

      Easy. Just graduate in the top 5% of your class at MIT or equivalent. Then you’re in.

  • Anonymous

    Holy Crap! did that just happen?

  • Guest

    Coming to a MS v1 product in 2018, or copied and substantially improved by Apple in 2012.

  • Guest

    So MS researchers spend their time standing around and playing with their balls? That explains a lot about why the huge investment there rarely pays off.

  • Adam Haider

    The practical application for these 3D R&D projects are still a long way from consumer implementation. These technologies will first need to be patented and then similar to Surface, will be used by companies first. Industrial design firms, engineers, architects and university labs I imagine would be the first to used them and then Microsoft would use that data to then further improve the technology to try and integrate it into their products.

    Remember the scene in Iron-man where Tony Stark is developing his suit using a wireless pointer/grabber and projector surface? From the video above it’s not hard to imagine Microsoft doing something exactly like this with a future version of Surface using a 3D laser projector. The pen is easy to implement, all it requires is using the Kinect with Windows and then build a pointer with a ‘grabbing’ gesture like you have with graphics tablet pens that will interface between Kinect SDK, Windows and other devices like the surface to mirror an object from an application for manipulation or display purposes. As stated above which would be very useful for designers, engineers or health professionals.

  • Lewis McCrary

    Kinect FTW!  If they could only shrink that down to a set of glasses you wore….

  • Guest

    OT: Tom, something wrong with your RSS feed today?

  • Monkey D Black

    holy sh*t

  • Anonymous

    Simply epicly awesomly amazing :D

  • Anonymous

    Makes one think that the Minority Report GUI is closer then we realize!

  • Biased

    Engineering design with usage of a parts and tooling geometry repositories seem easily implementable with this technology.  Being able to virtually interrogate design and determine interferences with respect to spacial integration is a easy use-case for this holodesk.  You would be surprised how many times spacial integration issues within modern CAD systems cause manufacturing issues with respect to installation and repair.  Integrating installation and repair tools and processes into a virtual holodesk would allow companies and engineers to ensure what they are designing works in all facets of manufacturing and maintenance.

    • Guest

      Sure, there’s all sorts of things it *could* be used for. The issue is will MS manage to do *any* of them, or like everything else will someone come along, scoop it up, improve it, and beat them in the market with it?

    • Anonymous

      Hmm not if it’s patented.

  • Owais_503

    Apple will put this techonology in their current/futuristic product.

  • JAG

    Windows X, Window Phone X and Windows X Tablet :)

  • Anonymous

    Just don’t make a HoloDesk Moriarty.

  • microfail_again

    they call this software? my son can write a better richer app than this. apple developers are brilliant all this microfail is nothing but a glitch. why would i want anything like this anyway?? just wait tomorrow apple devs will build this in less than 24 hrs. microsoft probably spent millions of dollars on this junkware

    • Guest

      You procreated? Sad.

    • microfail_again

      thats insulting. just because my son is smarter than you dumb microfails doesnt mean he or myself is sad. any high schoolar can build this. its sad that you cant

    • Gary

      if he’s your son, he can’t possibly be smart.

    • Anonymous

      maybe he adopted. Everyone knows there are very few female trolls, so it’s pretty hard for them to mate.  then again, everyone can lie.  i have three sons and a daughter and every single one went to harvard…get my point?

  • Michal Gurník

    this is nothing new, i’ve seen this stuff on CSI when they were digging in a holographic body :D

  • Anonymous

    Right on!, , & !

  • Anonymous

    I say , , and ! My bluetiful, my bluetiful. , my ……

    Yaaaaaay .