How to display movies in thin air

I don’t know if “Finnish company opens a Silicon Valley office” is sufficient pretext for a blog post. But here goes anyway.
FogScreen allows image projection into more or less thin air. …

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5th August 2007 at 9:28 am

I don’t know if “Finnish company opens a Silicon Valley office” is sufficient pretext for a blog post. But here goes anyway.

FogScreen allows image projection into more or less thin air. It does it by creating a fine ‘dry’ mist out of water and electricity. You know how your headlights bounce back at you in fog? Well, using this principle, it’s possible to project onto FogScreen’s generated mist.

The equipment is not cheap. The company is coy. Rummaging trade shows and the like, it looks as if it starts around $35,000, but it can be rented for trade shows and other special events for a few thousand dollars. You may remember (I don’t) that Lordi used it in its Eurovision-winning gig last year.

Billed as the first ‘walk through’ projection screen, one has to wonder why that particular benefit has been chosen. After all, if too many  people walk through it (as in a shop doorway, say) then it will somewhat disrupt the projected image. But it would be good fun in a night club, for example.

Watching the videos, I thought this must be what it’s like to watch a drive-in movie in a downpour. Still, it works and the gimmick value is definitely high. One of the videos has a model walking through a projected image onto the catwalk. Perhaps it could be a way to screen off part of an exhibition stand – have your seating area behind it. It would certainly attract attention. (I’ve linked to YouTube movies here but the company website carries its official .wmv and .avi movies.)

One version is two metres wide, giving a 100″ diagonal display. The other is one metre wide and they can be linked together to form a continuous curtain.

A kind-of-competing technology called Heliodisplay creates a 30″ diagonal projection screen in thin air by a secret method. It looks as if it cools the ambient air to dewpoint, but what do I know? This requires a floor or desk mounted unit because the ‘screen’ is pushed up from below. The caveats are similar to ScreenFog except that prices start at less than $20,000.

This ‘no-screen display screen’ idea is interesting. If it catches on, no doubt the price will plummet and it will be available in smaller/bigger form factors, depending which company you’re looking at. Both, incidentally, can offer ‘touch-screen’ interaction by sensing your finger’s position and feeding it to the display computer.

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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