The world portrayed by Tom Cruise and his slick, glove-manipulated holographic operating system in "Minority Report" has been inching closer to reality for some time now, and as the video below shows, it could come way ahead of schedule and be even cooler than Hollywood's original vision of the future.
Taiwan's nonprofit Industrial Technology Research Institute pointed me to the below demo of its new i-Air Touch (iAT) Technology, which is essentially an augmented-reality system that falls somewhere between the compact specs of Google Glass and the original, bulkier virtual-reality systems of the 1990s. Unlike Google Glass however, it doesn't rely primarily on voice commands. Instead, it projects a virtual touch-based interface in the user's field of vision that appears to float in the air and responds to being "touched." Watch the video below for a better explanation -- a picture is definitely worth a thousand words in this case.
The potential here is not just the realization of that "Minority Report" system, which Leap Motion has already commercialized for the most part, but the marriage of such a system with wearable technology.
"In addition to consumer applications, i-Air Touch is suitable for medical applications such as endoscopic surgery and any industrial applications that benefit from hands-free input," said Golden Tiao, deputy general director of ITRI's Electronics and Optoelectronics Research Laboratories in an e-mail.
According to ITRI, the secret sauce in iAT is the camera, which only activates when it detects a user's fingertip within a predetermined input distance range (roughly a foot away). In other words, it conserves battery power by only turning on when it detects that someone is trying to "air touch" the virtual input. Air touches are then sent to a host device like a laptop or smartphone that the headset is tethered to.
iAT was officially introduced last week and will receive a 2013 R&D 100 Award in November. ITRI says the technology is available now for licensing by mobile companies and anyone else. That means you, Google.