This year at SXSW, Sony opened up what it calls the “Wow Factory” in a converted warehouse on Trinity Street in Austin, where members of its Future Lab program have set up some of the coolest and weirdest hardware concepts out there. The Future Lab program is a research and development initiative that urges Sony employees to think more about human interaction and creativity, and not just bigger screens and faster processors.
Sony is using SXSW to demo wild prototype projector tech
One theme Sony hit upon at last year’s show and brought back in full force this go around is projector-based touchscreen technology. The company has essentially taken its expertise in display projection and married it with some truly unique user interface design. The result is a pair of prototype products that can turn any flat surface into a screen that you can not only interact with using your hands, but that can also take real-world objects and turn them into a kind of augmented reality version of themselves.
Imagine placing a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on the table and then being to drag a character off the page, or running your finger along a plain wooden surface and turning it into a responsive piano made of light. One demo even takes angular blocks of white-painted wood and transforms the table into a scale model of a home using only light from the projector.
Those are features of two prototypes Sony’s Future Lab has cooked up. One is a projector that Sony first brought out at last year’s SXSW. It sits directly above a tabletop, transforming the surface into an interactive display that does 3D tracking of hand movements and objects, as well as depth sensing. The device is aware of when both an object is placed in view, when your physical hand is touching that object, or when a pointed finger is resting on the table’s surface.
Sony created some clever software demos to show it off, including a live music app that used cylindrical plastic blocks to create an increasingly elaborate version of a classic Beethoven tune. The other was the Alice demo we first saw last year, which showed off how the software could identify when a teacup or deck of cards was on the table and overlay some cool graphics that could even be manipulated by a user dragging their hands on the table.