Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bonfire - a tabletop/laptop integration

(Comments left on Jacob Faires' Blog.)

Bonfire was developed by Shaun Kane, Daniel Avrahami, Jacob O. Wobbrock, Beverly Harrison, Adam D. Rea, Matthai Philipose, and Anthony LaMarca of the DUB Group at the University of Washington.

The main goal of Bonfire was to create a self-contained, portable nomadic computins system that combined effectively combined the best features of both laptop and tabletop systems.

The Bonfire system has 2 laptop mounted projectors and cameras
that make an interaction area on either side of laptop that
allows the user to manipulate data on either side of the laptop
like a table system but also provides the existing benefits
provided by a laptop such as keyboard and mouse input and
existing laptop applications.

The Bonfire paper itself claims that the integration of
the laptop and tabletop scheme:
"1) enables observing periphery and responsding appropriately
to the casual placement of objects within its field of view.
2) Enables integration between physical and digital objects via
computer vision.
3) Provides a horizontal surface in tandem with the usual
vertical laptop display, allowing direct pointing and gestures.
4) Enlarges the input/output space to enrich existing applications

Object selection - Adaptive Background subtraction
At start up, the current view is the background.
Areas added to the background are classified as foreground objects.
If an introduced object is not recognized it is added
to the background and unused objects can also be incorporated
into the background.

Finger detection uses a color based metric
and identifies extended points as fingers.
A single finger uses the tip of the finger as the cursor.
Multiple fingers use the midpoint as the cursor.

A user can interact with the projection space by using
tapping, dragging, flicking and crossing.

Taps - both accelerometer and user's finger near target
Drags - 2 fingers across the surface
Flicks - 1 finger across the surface. Only in cardinal directions
Crossing - detects when finger moves across interactive elements

My spill:
Now that all sounds a tad complicated but the basic idea is really cool.
You have an area to each side of your laptop where you can have extra computing
space that not only can show be used for more window space, but also have other cool
features that interact with the physical world.

Features like object recognition. The computer can recognize objects like my spiral
note-books and then bring up the online powerpoints from that class or maybe open
up a word document that has my report based on lecture notes.

The bonfire paper also had a pretty neat feature where the computer would recognize
a cup of coffee and then update how much the user has spent on coffee and chart calorie intakes.

As a gamer, my personal favorite example they provided was using the bonfire system
as a input menu space for MMORPG that would allow the user to quickcast spell or
or maybe display a map on beside the laptop while freeing up space for other things
on the main laptop screen.

This is definitely the direction I like to see computing going in.
More useful interaction with the environment and intelligent use of space and use of computer sensing and intelligence. Very cool.

The paper also touched on a very good point that the bonfire system covers the weakness of both laptops and table tops. Laptops lack interactivity with the physical
while tabletops lack the sophisticated input and portability.
That's progress.

The real faults that Bonfire needs to be aware of is about the marketing and pricing of laptops equipped with this kind of technology. I would suspect that the initial introduction of these units would be pricey and if people aren't aware, this kind of product could flop. The other thing I worry about is how much the system would actually be able to recognize. If the number of items it can recognize is too small, then Bonfire could end up looking like some novelty feature that really doesn't do too much.

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