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In countless series of the world of science fiction we see something that we all accept as realistic but makes no sense. Holographic controls. We simply say that since it's the future that it makes sense. But the problem is that I see no way how this could work. If it was a classic hologram then our hands would simply block out the light, no input. If it was glass with button then there are no wires, no input.

How can I achieve (seemingly) holographic control boards using future technology?

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  • $\begingroup$ In what way would hands block the light? Do you mean in the conventional sense of your hand blocking the light reflecting off your keyboard? $\endgroup$ – user6511 Oct 21 '15 at 22:31
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There are several ways to achieve this.

First, I'll point out that we can currently track people's hands in 3D to accept input from arbitrary presses on 3D locations in the air. See the Leap Motion. I own one, it's rather incredible though not completely there yet.

As for adding a display to the spot you're pressing buttons in the air:

  • Shine the light from different directions. There is no reason to have a single source that gets blocked by hands.
  • Shine the light on the eyes directly. Google glass uses a similar concept. The light is focused in a way to make it appear as though the rendered object is out in front of you. This has the added benefit of being more secure since only the user can see the controls.
  • With glass, you can't see the wires. Look at your touchscreen device, see any wires? No, you don't but there is a grid of them right in front of the display screen that makes up the capacitive input.
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  • $\begingroup$ we also have these available: waycoolgadgets.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/… $\endgroup$ – James Oct 21 '15 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ Also see the Kinect. At this point, the holograms/projections are nothing more than visual cues guiding us humans where to put our hands to interact with the system, not the input method itself. $\endgroup$ – Kromey Oct 21 '15 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ Just as an example of not bothering to solve this problem, Avatar's 3-D displays were projected from one direction, and if your hand crossed between the projected point and its projection source it would disappear just like if you put your hand in front of a film projector. These were purely display-only projections though, no direct interaction. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Oct 21 '15 at 23:11
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Motion capture is this technology in a slightly different format. There are several different platforms which can track the position of the human body or parts, allowing you to interact with objects in the "virtual world".

"Data Gloves" were an early attempt at this, the gloves not only measured the position in space of your hands, but could also provide haptic feedback to give you a sensation of "touching" an object. Samuel mentions some of the new gaming platforms, which make things like the Wii look positively stone age. In the future, your room, work cubicle or cockpit might be lined with sensors that sense your body in fine grained detail, recording your position in space and time so you could be interacting in a virtual world. You would "see" the virtual world through technology like Google Glasses or even contact lenses. For team projects, the same virtual world or object could be sent to all team members, as well as their positions in space and time, allowing everyone to cooperatively "work" on a project.

Movie makers can be given some licence to show the external viewer the "screen" or object being manipulated, but for the true outside observer watching you, they would see you doing what looks like a bizarre dance without a partner, and have no visual cues as to what it was you were actually doing.

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