Microsoft Unveils See through 3D Desktop

Image via Lee Jihna

While the technology that powers mobile devices is changing fast, it’s not the case on desktop interfaces. Inspired by computer scientist Ivan Sutherland, who once said that a computer display is a “looking glass into a mathematical wonderland”, Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD student and Media Lab research assistant Jihna Lee created a transparent 3D desktop display.

Moving Forward to a Futuristic 3D Technology

Despite the innovations in 3D display technology, it is yet to grow in the personal computing space. As Lee posted on his official website:

“Despite advances in 3D sensing and display technologies, our interactions with computer desktops have remained stagnant from the form that evolved under 2D I/O modalities. See Through 3D desktop is a 3D spatial operating environment that allows the user to directly interact with his or her virtual desktop. ”

Compared to tablet and handset displays, the transparent 3D desktop is more interaction-based than touch-based. It’s an integration of Samsung OLED technology and Microsoft Kinect. A unique combination of a transparent display and a 3D gesture detection algorithm, it can locate space and 3D rendering without tethering. Moreover, this Minority Report-like interface uses a camera to track where a user’s head is and to keep the 3D illusion intact. In turn, it doesn’t hassle users with wearable devices.

How the See through 3D Desktop Works

Together with the Microsoft Research Lab team, Lee designed the 3D display that puts a user’s hand behind it. From there, he or she can work and literally bring the files on his or her fingertips.

They can also open the See Through 3D Desktop and type on the keyboard or use the track pad to operate the user interface. The operating system and the files are placed in a 3D space between the input devices and the screen. As a result, a user can touch his or her files on the 3D space and manipulate it with his or her hands.


Still a work in progress, Lee said that the See Through 3D display was initiated and developed at Microsoft Applied Sciences Group during his internship with his mentor Cati Boulanger. Meanwhile, GeekWire uploaded a YouTube video, showcasing how the futuristic display works. Although it would take a long while before consumers can take a hold of this technology, this invention can be one of the first steps towards the interaction-based displays.

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