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GUI Software Businesses Apple

Video Chat Via Transparent Desktop Overlay 204

Jason0x21 writes "Wired News has an article about UNC Comp. Sci. researchers developing a transparent desktop overlay for video conferencing, allowing remote coworkers to literally point and interact with things on your screen. The researchers say that Apple's Quartz graphics engine let them go from idea to prototype in 'about 45 minutes'. Windows versions predicted in the future."
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Video Chat Via Transparent Desktop Overlay

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  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:10AM (#9672199)
    One of my favorite pieces of technology I've ever gotten a chance to play with is the SmartBoard Interactive Whiteboard [smarttech.com] It's a whiteboard that's touch-sensative. Basically, combine it with your favorite projection monitor and you've got a 60 inch touchscreen monitor. Just like any other touch screen, anywhere you tap the board is treated like a mouseclick in whatever application you're using. As an added bonus, "magic crayons" (really nothing more than plastic styluses) are at the bottom of the board. When the board detects one of the pens removed from its holder, it treats all touches as requests to draw on the screen.

    It's a great presentation tool to liven up a powerpoint and avoid the need to have to walk accross the room to get the next frame. Furthermore, playing solitare with foot-high cards is quite fun. :)
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:16AM (#9672226)
    Windows has had the ability to draw transparent windows since 2000. However, there's a limit to how far they can go.

    Particularlly, you can't do any blending against windows that are being drawn with DirectX/DirectDraw which is the way that any program that wants to approach full-motion video or 3D graphics has to do things. And that's what prevents Windows from handling this application.

    Mac's OSX is a lot cleaner in this department because in their universe there are no exceptions to the rules... everything passes through Quartz, so there's a chance to capture and play with anything on the screen. DirectX and DirectDraw are painted onto the screen after all mortal windows are drawn in Windows, and that's why there's no chance to add an overlay to them.
    • by Rosyna ( 80334 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:21AM (#9672248) Homepage
      From limited testing it seems that when a window is marked transparent in windows, it is composited into the display. But otherwise everything is non-compositing. This, in my experience, causes huge problems when fully opaque, non-layered windows are set atop a transparent one. Windows will often draw the old image while dragging the transparent window.

      This is especially noticeable if you make a window transparent, then open the Task Manager (always on top) and drag the transparent window around. Very ugly..

      And I haven't seen any way to make specific controls on Windows transparent alone or the window transparent alone (and leaving the controls opaque.
    • You sir are incorrect. You can certainly make Windows that use D3D TRANSLUCENT in Windows XP and possibly 2000. A friend of mine made his app fade out when minimized and fade in when restored. It was a game that uses D3D.
    • not really (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dekeji ( 784080 )
      Windows has had the ability to draw transparent windows since 2000. However, there's a limit to how far they can go.

      Transparency in window systems is an idea that goes back almost as long as window systems have been around. People were even asking for it in the earliest versions of X11.

      The only reason it hasn't been implemented more widely is because hardware hasn't really been up to it and applications didn't need it. Those applications that really did need it just used special graphics and visualizat
    • Particularlly, you can't do any blending against windows that are being drawn with DirectX/DirectDraw which is the way that any program that wants to approach full-motion video or 3D graphics has to do things. And that's what prevents Windows from handling this application.

      Mac's OSX is a lot cleaner in this department because in their universe there are no exceptions to the rules... everything passes through Quartz, so there's a chance to capture and play with anything on the screen. DirectX and DirectDraw
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is cocoa more responsible for fast development prototyping? Quartz is just an API. And I'm pretty sure there isn't a NSVideoConferenceWindow () in it.... or is there?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:17AM (#9672235)
    ollaborating with co-workers in the same office is painful enough, but it's nigh impossible over a network.

    For a couple of decades, researchers have tried to blend shared workspaces -- systems that allow two or more people to work on the same document -- with Internet video-conferencing systems, with little success.

    Now researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have designed a new system that cleverly blends a video-conference feed with a transparent image of a computer desktop into one full-screen window.

    Called Facetop, the system simultaneously transmits a video feed of users along with a shared, transparent image of the desktop. It allows two colleagues to work on the same document, Web page or graphic, while communicating face to face.

    The system also tracks the position of the users' fingertips, which can control a cursor. As well as operating the shared desktop -- opening and closing files or selecting text, for instance -- the collaborators can use natural pointing gestures to communicate ideas about the document.

    Developed by David Stotts, an associate professor of computer science, and graduate student Jason Smith, Facetop was conceived for collaborative tasks like programming or editing text. But the researchers say it has obvious uses in other areas such as medical imaging or remote teaching.

    "So far, from the feedback we've received, it works fantastically," said Smith. "It's a very natural interaction. You can see the facial expressions and all the nuances of face-to-face communication."

    "It's spectacular technology," said Robert Gotwals, associate director of Chapel Hill's Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, who saw a demonstration of an early version. "I've done lots of video-conferencing work. This is pretty cutting edge. It's a fast-moving field and the stuff David (Stotts) is doing is pretty cool."

    The system can also be used for delivering lectures or PowerPoint presentations: The speaker is projected in the background of the document allowing her to point out bullet points or important passages. According to Smith, users easily switch attention between the subject and the desktop.

    "The brain is really good at picking out what part of the screen the person is interested in," said Smith. "It's like being in a room full of conversations but having no trouble paying attention to only one.... People adapt to the system really naturally."

    Facetop may also be used to as an alternative to the mouse, for controlling a machine simply by pointing with a finger.

    The system is implemented in Mac OS X and is made possible largely by the system's Quartz rendering engine, which can make any part of the interface transparent. Thanks to Quartz, a quick prototype was whipped up in about 45 minutes, Smith said.

    A PC version will likely be delayed until the release of Longhorn, the next major version of Windows, due in 2006, which will include a similar graphics subsystem.

    The system is fairly inexpensive; it has been implemented on a pair of Apple PowerBooks and two $100 FireWire cameras. So far it has been tested only on Ethernet networks and not the Internet, though the researchers say there's no reason it shouldn't work just fine. They are also trying to hook it to Apple's iChat instant-message/video-conferencing software and other similar systems.

    Facetop was initially developed for "pair programming," an increasingly popular form of collaborative coding that pairs programmers in teams of two: one to program, the other to suggest and correct. Stotts said programmers normally sit next to each other, and he has been interested for some time to see whether they could collaborate over the Internet.

    According to Stotts, pair programming -- sometimes called extreme programming -- is fast and effective and is becoming increasingly popular for small projects.

    The idea for Facetop occurred to Stotts and Smith accidentally. Instead of a computer monitor, Stotts projects his
  • Where are the screenshots? - seems logical to post considering it only took 45mins for a prototype.

    Why boast how easy it was to get it happening then not showing it happening?

    odd
  • Prior research (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:21AM (#9672249)
    I had an internship at DoE lab outside of Chicago, Argonne Natl. Laboratory, at which we worked on a project similar to this. The system allowed multiple users (of various geographic, or digital distances) to connect to a Desktop Server, on which all users could interact with icons, windows and programs in tandem as if they interfacing with a local deskptop in windows. Althou, we used BeOS as our platform because it had a small footprint. Interesting that three years later private companies have out-done the DoE's work. Sad.
    • The whole point of this is that a live video feed of the person you are working with is super-imposed on the screen while you work on the shared desktop.

      Sounds like what you were working on was just a shared workspace?
    • Interesting that three years later private companies have out-done the DoE's work. Sad.

      Yes, it's sad that it took three years.

      Software developed by, or on contract from, the federal government belongs to the public domain in the US, if I remember correctly. If that DoE software package had had its source opened up and made available in a timely fashion, a civilian company would not have had to redevelop their own system from scratch.
  • Not exactly (Score:2, Informative)

    by laserbeak ( 794029 )
    It's not exactly ground breaking. It's like turning an already used premative system and applying the lattest tech to it. Instant millionare basic idea.. kinda like the paper clip :)

    What i'd like to see is a voice controled program, instead of hurridly bending down to click the mouse at a conference, you simply say 'back', 'foward', 'pause', or even program in new words through a macro system built into the program. Oh and don't try and steal it, thats my damn intelectual property now, hah!

    • Re:Not exactly (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Oh.. That'd take another 45 minutes. You need to use one of apple's other technologies, VoiceOver [apple.com].
    • I once.. (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Instant millionare basic idea.. kinda like the paper clip :)
      I once had this great idea. It was a "Jump to Conclusions Mat". See it was this mat that had different conclusions too "jump" to.
    • IBM implented this, and actually a whole lot more, in OS/2 Warp.

      They had a complete voice recognition system which was IIRC sold seperately though (but integrated nicely into the OS). One of the two main selling points was presentations.

      The other was word processing which was the make-or-break point and where the big problem lied. It just too long to train the application and, more importantly, to actually compose a quick letter using voice recognition. I remember using it at presentations though and with

    • What would be better is hand gestures.

      Get some decent computer vision going, and since your hand can be overlayed on the screen, just use your hand as a mouse. much like tom cruise's setup in minority report.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know freedesktop has (incomplete?) support for full RGBA windows, making a version (or opensource clone?) of this on Linux theoretically possible. Is there any work on such a thing?
  • actual project link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Potlucker ( 19278 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:29AM (#9672279)
    here's an Endeavors article about the project at UNC

    FaceTop [unc.edu]
  • What if your background isn't completely black or a solid color I know my office back ground isn't a flat color its a bunch of books and papers and folders not so neatly organized that overlaided on a coworkers desktop would really add to the confusion.
    • by Jason Smith ( 3310 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:48AM (#9672885)
      Actually, our experiments have found that it really doesn't matter.

      First off, the translucency is adjustable. Looks too cluttered? Make it more faint. Secondly, it's much like being in a room full of conversations at a party - you select particular conversations to pay attention to, and the rest just 'fade away'. In this case, when the user turns their attention to the document content, they don't notice the video, and when they concentrate on the video (either for hand motions or interaction with a remote user), the document content is ignored. The brain is much better at this sort of thing than most people realize.
  • by pyrrhonist ( 701154 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:36AM (#9672303)
    allowing remote coworkers to literally point and interact with things on your screen.

    !siht ekil skool gnihtyreve weiv fo tniop rieht morf ,yletanutrofnU

  • by dbc ( 135354 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:37AM (#9672308)
    So, let's say those clever folks over at whatever-Gator-calls-themselves-now gets the brilliant idea that they could download one of them thar transparent-overlay-thingies whenever you browse to random-evil-webpage. Then, whoosh! They can sell remote access to your desktop so that advertisers can move all the annoying icons out of the way so that you can see the advertising more clearly. Or whatever. An since the overlay is transparent, the user can't figure out what is happening and simply thinks their system is posessed by the devil.
    • Well, if Gator's involved, what's the difference?
    • I think the trojan concept is limiting the possibilities of this. Imagine:

      1. Your boss's face stares back at you your entire time at work and you can't determine whether the image is live or pre-recorded.

      2. You browse a porn site and instead of popup ads, you get a Real Live Operator offering a different sort of popups.

      3. You get 0Wn3d but don't feel so threatened after seeing the pimpled face of 14-year old.

      4. Instead of visiting a religeous site and using your web browser to submit prayers in a t
    • and this is different from normal trojans how?
      any trojan would be able to do it(move icons, close windows - in fact some spyware/adware/viruses do that already) without this in the os.

      and did you even look at the screenshots/article? obviously not, or did you intend that there would be some guy personally moving the icons on normal victims screens? that would be quite expensive for advertising purposes.

  • by atlasheavy ( 169115 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:45AM (#9672333) Homepage
    Assuming you have a touch screen, Windows has been able to do this since the release of Windows XP, using the remote assistance feature. Also, for the record, I hate getting into "I can pee this far, how far can you pee" debates. I just felt the need to reassert my "Windows shill" status by posting this ;-).
    • by nmk ( 781777 )
      No, not really. What windows can do Is a far cry from what this technology offers. The windows remote assistance feature lets another user take over your machine and operate it as if it were their own. You can see what they are doing on your screen. However, there is certainly no projection of that person on your screen allowing you to see them physically touch and interact with your system. This adds a whole new level of interactivity.

      Like you said, this isn't a Windows Mac pissing contest. Its a cool new
    • The one somewhat key difference here is that this application overlays a video feed from your webcam on the desktop, so that you can point at things on your screen, and the person on the other end sees you pointing at them.

      However, that could probably still be done, using a hardware DirectDraw/Direct3D video overlay to draw the webcam feed over the desktop with reduced opacity or per-pixel alpha.
    • Ever heard of VNC? It's cross-platform, open source, and it's been around for years, and it's exactly what you just described.

      But it's not like this technology at all. Sorry.
  • by ThePDW ( 764788 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:49AM (#9672347) Homepage
    Heaven forbid that people should actually have to talk to each other face to face!
    • Re:Heaven Forbid! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kronos. ( 40016 )
      How on earth did this get modded as Insightful?. It shows a lack of insight. Perish the though that people may collaborate on a project from different geographical locations.
    • Re:Heaven Forbid! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cthefuture ( 665326 )
      Uh, a lot of work is done via remote locations nowadays.

      For example, the current project I'm working on involves 3 companies spanning 5 or 6 states in the US. We can't just meet face-to-face without spending a hell of a lot of money.

      And next week I'll be working on something else for a completely different company.

      This is how stuff gets done. It allows talent from all over the globe to be used for minimal cost.
    • Heaven forbid that people should actually have to talk to each other face to face!

      ...said the lone geek posting text on a website.

  • Only 10 years behind (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:50AM (#9672350)
    This concept was extensively researched by Hiroshi Ishii [mit.edu] and his team between 1991 and 1994 while he was at NTT.

    I saw the concept videos [mit.edu] in my HCI class at the time. They went through all the various issues of pointing alignment, video flipping and the like.
    • by Jason Smith ( 3310 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:53AM (#9672907)
      Yes, it is similar, but with three critical differences:

      1) ClearBoard's conceptual model was two people standing on either side of a pane of glass. Ours is a much simpler view... two people sitting side by side. We have no issues requiring us to flip document content for instance. It is a small but important difference in how it drives the implementation.

      2) ClearBoard required expensive and cumbersome hardware. FaceTop requires a $100 FireWire camera. Well, and a Mac. ;)

      3) ClearBoard was designed to be integrated with specific applications. FaceTop becomes an input device, much like a mouse replacement, and thereby can work with any application on your system. We generalized it out, and it became much more powerful.
      • One has to ask, however, exactly what the
        patentable innovation of FaceTop could be,
        given ClearBoard's prior art.
        • I can't go into details on the actual patent application until that process is complete, but the seemingly small twist that ClearBoard's conceptual model is 'two people on either side of a pane of glass' and ours is 'two people sitting side by side' made an amazing amount of difference as to how it was designed and therefore what it can do.

          The FAQ [unc.edu] also illustrates that the number of people interacting is the number of people shown - you also see yourself, something ClearBoard did not do. The FAQ explains
      • Your development sounds wonderful and I'd like one on my wall too. What exactly do you find patentable though, this is great but every element would appear to be prior. It just seems there is a lot of prior art in visualization and cscw.

        I have used a ClearBoard and it was cool and I wanted one immediately. I suspect your app will be another good reason for me to get a Mac again.

        I also was a little involved with Muse 2000, cscw visualization and collaborative simulation/cad construction software in an n-d
        • *I* would consider it. Unfortunately, as we are employees of UNC, they own the IP, lock, stock and barrel. I am working with them to find a nice happy middle ground.

          As for what is patentable, I am unable to comment on that until the patent process is complete. (Yeah, it's not my first choice either, but I'm bound by the legalities of my situation.)

          You're right, there is a lot of good work out there that we've uncovered since starting this project... to be honest, I'm not a CHI guy, I'm a software engin
      • > 1) ClearBoard's conceptual model was two people standing
        > on either side of a pane of glass. Ours is a much simpler
        > view... two people sitting side by side.
        No, see ClearBoard-2 [mit.edu] (scroll down):
        "To overcome these problems in ClearBoard-1, we decided to design a new computer-based prototype, "ClearBoard-2"."

        > 2) ClearBoard required expensive and cumbersome hardware...
        Adding newer hardware to an existing design is hardly innovative. Nothing pertinent to a patent there.

        > 3) ClearBoard was de

        • > 1) ClearBoard's conceptual model was two people standing
          > on either side of a pane of glass. Ours is a much simpler
          > view... two people sitting side by side.
          No, see ClearBoard-2 [mit.edu] (scroll down):
          "To overcome these problems in ClearBoard-1, we decided to design a new computer-based prototype, "ClearBoard-2"."


          Sorry - I didn't notice you wrote _conceptual_ model. I thought you were referring to the ClearBoard 'Version 0' on that website.
    • Seems like Ishii's work should invalidate the University of North Carolina patents.

      From the article:

      Stotts said the university holds patents on the technology and will likely license it to software publishers.
  • Screenshots (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mike Schiraldi ( 18296 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:03AM (#9672386) Homepage Journal
    Fine, i'll do Slashdot and Wired's jobs for them:

    Screenshots [weblogs.com]
  • Peak Performance (Score:4, Informative)

    by IanDanforth ( 753892 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:05AM (#9672390)
    If anyone can appreciate this reference its slashdot. Facetop: The Next Generation [locutus.pos.to]

    -Ian

  • Go figure (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bouncing Castle ( 796070 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:10AM (#9672413)
    Business to business relationships have already become so depersonalised. This is just the next logical step - advancing technology that allows people to sit on their chairs to help other people. Heaven forbid that you would have to get up from your desk to help somebody!
    • Re:Go figure (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 )
      Funny you mention that, I talked about the very thing at work receantly. I (and others) were thinking of the feasablity of impleminting RPD or VNC on all desktops. Rather than go to an office or lab to fix a problem, just take control of the computer and do it. Well, after a little though, I decided this was horrible idea. It would ottally depersonalize the support experience. No longer would customers deal with people, some faceless entity would just grab their computer and fix it. True, in either case the
      • We implemented a system like that 6 months ago, hasn't caused any problems yet. It makes us more efficient on little things, and for bigger things, we'd still go up and handle it face to face.

      • It would ottally depersonalize the support experience. No longer would customers deal with people, some faceless entity would just grab their computer and fix it.

        Not to mention, and I think this is important--if you can fix a user's computer without leaving your desk, that same job can be done for less in India. Remote Is Not Your Friend--much better to retain the comfort of face-to-face interaction, and to build interpersonal relationships; call it a value add.

        If you train your users to be comfortab
        • Because this isn't a slippery slope situation. At most small-medium sized companies, the guys you call for database help, or because you can't turn off auto complete in word, are the same guys you call for training, or for more advanced issues. Because you can do some tasks remotely doesn't necessarily remove your interaction.
  • Adding 3D to it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by krahd ( 106540 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:28AM (#9672474) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps this kind of überchatting software is THE place where they can use those 3D desktop environments / window managers.

    I don't really know if it would be useful, but perhaps it is cool to lean a window so you can see your partner while keeping an eye on the app content.

    Anyway, beeing so far from the world as *I* am (yep, there are places on the south of the globe), where the bandwidth is kinda expensive, i can tell that i'll not be using this kind of technology for a while...

    --krahd
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by el_flynn ( 1279 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:32AM (#9672485) Homepage
    One possible feature for them to implement: one party can "flip the bird" to restart the whole session (as opposed to ALT-F4 or CTRL-C or whatever), thus giving new meaning to "Giving your co-worker the finger" for bad suggestions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:35AM (#9672492)
    Unless your camera sits exactly behind your monitor, (i.e. your monitor screen is transparent/one-way)
    the image of your hand (despite the touch screen) on your collaborator's screen has to be computer generated. Or am I missing something here?
    If the hand is CG, then all we have is a glorified cursor (but this too would be a pretty good hack if they got it done in 45 mins).

    But wait, those pics don't seem to show the hand pointing in the right direction either!
  • by 404 Clue Not Found ( 763556 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:48AM (#9672533)
    From the screenshots, it looks like the camera is set on top of the monitor, facing you.

    How exactly does it work?

    Doesn't this mean that what you see is actually a mirror image of yourself, and that in order to guide the cursor to an icon, you have to manipulate your on-screen finger to the right place and then flick it? (As opposed to a touch screen, where your REAL, not virtual, finger actually does the clicking).

    It's hard for me to imagine how easy guiding this virtual hand of yours would be. The only similar experience I've had was with the P5 glove [p5glove.com] (basically a VR glove that can act as a mouse), and it took some getting used to. It's certainly not as intuitive as just touching the icon on the physical screen, but then again, that's how mice work, so maybe it's all right once you're familiar with it.

    But how does your finger, which can travel freely around you, correspond with the very limited boundaries of your desktop/screen?

    Also, do you see an image of yourself on your screen along with an image of the other guy, or do you only see some sort of cursor?

    Basically, I'm just not sure how the system determines where or what your finger is pointing at. Can anyone explain?
    • "404 Clue Not Found" indeed.

      Doesn't this mean that what you see is actually a mirror image of yourself, and that in order to guide the cursor to an icon, you have to manipulate your on-screen finger to the right place and then flick it? (As opposed to a touch screen, where your REAL, not virtual, finger actually does the clicking).

      You do realise that the camera is digital and merely passes a stream of numbers into the computer? It is relatively trivial to reverse the order of the numbers in software. "Wal

    • by Jason Smith ( 3310 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:38AM (#9672854)
      Actually, the camera can be anywhere, as long as you're in the field of view.

      As for ease of use, it literally takes people about two seconds to calibrate their hand motions to the cursor movement, and they're off and running. It's exactly like you're standing in front of a mirror (assuming the camera is in front of you), and gesturing... the visual feedback you get from your own image is the key. The transparency lets you see both your 'reflection' and the document content simultaneously.

      Don't worry, we're seeing a lot of people confusing the single-user mode (one head on screen) with the video-conferencing mode (two heads on screen), simply because they're not used to video conferencing including themselves.
    • Put a couple of your favorite stickers on a mirror.

      If you don't have stickers, make a few small circles on the mirror using your girlfriends lipstick.

      Now step about 3 feet away from the mirror.

      Move your finger so that when you look in the mirror, it looks like you are touching the stickers but you don't physically do so, it just looks like you do to your eye.

      Notice that you can do this regardless of your angle to the mirror, you just have to adjust your finger.

      Now imagine that the stickers are icons on

  • by Jason Smith ( 3310 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:19AM (#9672790)
    Seeing some misconceptions, tossed up a quick FAQ at http://www.cs.unc.edu/~smithja/facetop/index.html for your perusal.

    I'll be adding material to it through the morning as issues pop up, but these are the ones we've seen the most of this weekend.
  • by Lurks ( 526137 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:11AM (#9672964) Homepage
    ...by Asus GameFace [asus.com]. The idea being that you could set up a video conference to a friend you are playing in a multiplayer game and their face is superimposed on your actual game, via a translucent overlay.

    I've tried it and it's pretty cool. It's great so see the expression on your opponents face when you roll your army of tanks into his left flank when he's least expecting it.

  • Combine this with the 3D technology that the latest LCD displays have, and video conferencing would be possible Neon Genesis Evangelion style.
  • It's a very cool system. I'm sitting in front of a PowerBook in an office with two iSight firewire cams and would love to play with this or better yet take a look at the source. It's a shame that it's patented so we'll probably never see it unless Apple happens to integrate it into the OS, and even then we'll never see the code.

    I am not an Open Source/Free Software zealot, but it does irritate me somewhat when publicly funded institutions patent research projects =)

    I also mean no disrespect to the develop

  • eye toy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fikx ( 704101 )
    This looks similar to the eyetoy for PS2. It works the same way.
    This is a better use of the idea in my opinion. I'd like to use this to replace a mouse, plus the collaberation use looks great. Kudos to the ones who put it together!
    Can we do this with X11?
  • The real AHA! here (Score:2, Insightful)

    by UpLock ( 640192 )
    If I get this correctly--and it appears most everyone else does not--I see your alpha-blended image as if you were sitting in my place; similarly, you see mine. Not flipped, or virtualized, but 'reflected' as if we were sitting in each other's place. Anyone who has worked developing and using and testing collaborative solutions will recognize that there is, potentially, a real AHA! here. VNC, NetMeeting and WebEx and all that clever crap is limited or useless, except in the hands of sophisticated people
    • You're close... but it's actually better than that.

      Check the FAQ here [unc.edu] for a rundown of what's actually going on.

      You see the other person *and yourself*. It's as if you're sitting side by side, working at the same keyboard. If either of you lifts your tracked fingertip into the camera view, the cursor is controlled by it. Either user can control the cursor, and edit the shared document(s).

      And you're right, there is very little confusion as to what's going on - most people take to it immediately.

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