This high-tech automat uses diamond touch, a technology
that allows for multiple users to touch the same screen. Dietz
said they are also working on making a super user for the
table. For instance, if there are kids at the table and they
start ordering everything on the menu, the super user will be
allowed to override their choices and make one decision for
Now this does not completely eliminate the server. The
researchers have also built in two server call buttons into
the booth, just in case a customer has a question or is
confused about operating this system. It will also allow the
server to access a special controller on the side of the
table, so they can bring up daily specials and deals.
So when will the restaurant of the future emerge as the
latest theme food establishment? Dietz said they're just
developers and they don't make end products. However, they
have spoken to some people who are very interested in the
product. One big obstacle to commercial success is that the
video projector costs one to three thousand dollars per table.
Once that cost comes down, or they can figure out another way
to get the same results, Dietz thinks this will really catch
on. "We can picture this fitting into many types of more
futuristic modern type restaurant that are already out there,"
The other brainchild project is called "Shader Lamps,"
which animate real objects with projectors. Researcher Ramesh
Raskar demonstrated how this project could be applied in a car
dealership. He bought a twenty dollar model car kit at Toys R'
Us and painted it white. With an overhead projector he is able
to change the color and background the car sits against to
make it look like it is moving. It's almost like watching one
of those racecar videogames. "Our whole idea is how to combine
special effects and the real world because special effects in
movies or on television... are two-dimensional and flat. But
here we are combining special effects with something you can
walk around and look at with your friends," Raskar said.
How is this all achieved with a video projector? The MERL
website explains that researchers map out the virtual
design and fit it the real model. "We achieve alignment
between the physical object and projected images,
semi-automatically using projector calibration techniques.
Second, we use 3D graphics hardware to change not just the
texture of the object, but also the view dependent appearance.
This allows us to make, for example, an object appear shiny
with specular highlights. Third, we solve the problem of
seamlessly merging images from multiple projectors in the
presence of occlusions and self-shadows," according to
Raskar's project description.
Future uses would allow places like car dealership to house
these virtual models. They could project different colors and
special features. People will have a little trouble climbing
into the mini-car for a test drive, but Raskar thinks this
could be especially useful in trade show environments.
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