The prototype was built from an ordinary webcam and a battery-powered 3M projector, with an attached mirror — all connected to an internet-enabled mobile phone. The setup, which costs less than $350, allows the user to project information from the phone onto any surface — walls, the body of another person or even your hand.
Maes showed a video of her student Pranav Mistry who she describes as the brains behind the project. Mistry wore the device on a lanyard around his neck, and colored Magic Marker caps on four fingers (red, blue, green and yellow) helped the camera distinguish the four fingers and recognize his hand gestures with software that Mistry created.
The gestures can be as simple as using his fingers and thumbs to create a picture frame that tells the camera to snap a photo, which is saved to his mobile phone. When he gets back to an office, he projects the images onto a wall and begins to size them.
When he encounters someone at a party, the system projects a cloud of words on the person’s body to provide more information about him — his blog URL, the name of his company, his likes and interests. “This is a more controversial [feature],” Maes said over the audience’s laughter.
In another frame, Mistry picks up a boarding pass while he’s sitting in a car. He projects the current status of his flight and gate number he’s retrieved from the flight-status page of the airline onto the card.
“If you need to know what time it is, it’s as simple as drawing a watch on your arm,” Maes said, while Mistry used his right finger to draw a circle on his left wrist. The face of a watch popped up on his hand, which the audience liked.