Former Timaru man helps design 3-D computer display

Former Timaru man Dr Jason Alexander presents his 3-D computer to the BBC.
BBC/ Supplied.

Former Timaru man Dr Jason Alexander presents his 3-D computer to the BBC.

A former Timaru man headed up the team that designed the world's first computer where 3-D images actually come out of the screen

Dr Jason Alexander, is part of a team at Lancaster University who have created a physically dynamic bar chart.

Or in laymans terms, a computer where the data bars propel out of the screen, and can change as the information entered changes.

Alexander, who is a lecturer in human-computer interaction, said the team had identified that generally people struggled with multi-dimensional data and had been trialling for sometime with the technology which enabled the shape to change as the information changed.

"We've named this particular prototype "EMERGE" as the data physically emerges from the display. It's an example of the more general class of technology called shape-changing displays."

Alexander lived in Timaru until the end of 1999, where he had completed year 11 at Mountainview High School.  He then finished his schooling at Burnside High School and went on to do his tertiary studies at the University of Canterbury.

The team had been working on the technology for three or four years, with the EMERGE prototype taking about six months to do, he said.

And as with anything that takes time, there was a variety of emotions involved, he said.

Although he gets a kick out of seeing people's reaction to the technology.

"... users love physically interacting with the data points and experiencing the physical actuation."

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They are surprised when the bars actually emerge out of the screen, he said.

That was interesting to watch, Alexander said.

However there was a low point was when the team realised their first approach to the mechanical actuation system was not going to work.

Down the line Alexander could see the 3-D computer being used at meeting room tables, a sales pitch or anywhere data could be discussed by a group around a table.

"The vision for this technology is for every pixel on your display to have actuation capabilities.

"This opens a diverse range of possibilities including: maps being able to show physical terrain, physical buttons extruding, on-the-fly, from your mobile device, rendering of photographs in physical 3-D, and of course tangible gaming. The vision for this technology is for every pixel on your display to have actuation capabilities.

 - The Timaru Herald

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