Microsoft Research has revealed their latest project ImmerseBoard which uses huge touch screens called SurfaceHubs combined with Microsoft Kinect cameras to let two people standing hundreds of miles apart look at each other, virtually “shake hands” and even write on the same white board.
The interactive, 3D technology replicates the feeling two people have when they are standing next to each other in a conference room chatting about a project. That allows for much more natural interaction than the often-awkward conference call or video chat.
For example, if two people are in one room, it uses face and clothing recognition to figure out who is at the white board at any given moment, so it can later separate out who wrote what on the board. In addition, it can distinguish between right and left hands, so you can use one as a pencil and the other as an eraser, and it lets you do things like use your finger as a laser pointer from far away.
ImmerseBoard is a system for remote collaboration through a digital whiteboard that gives participants a 3D immersive experience, enabled only by an RGBD camera (Microsoft Kinect) mounted on the side of a large touch display. Using 3D processing of the depth images, life-sized rendering, and novel visualizations, ImmerseBoard emulates writing side-by-side on a physical whiteboard, or alternatively on a mirror. User studies involving three tasks show that compared to standard video conferencing with a digital whiteboard, ImmerseBoard provides participants with a quantitatively better ability to estimate their remote partners’ eye gaze direction, gesture direction, intention, and level of agreement. Moreover, these quantitative capabilities translate qualitatively into a heightened sense of being together and a more enjoyable experience. ImmerseBoard’s form factor is suitable for practical and easy installation in homes and offices.