LAS VEGAS -- Has it always been your dream to play "Ms. Pacman" on the surface of Whistler's Mother? Have you ever dreamed of flinging an Angry Bird from the left pec of a shirtless bodybuilder to the right pec? If you could have gone through a season of "Madden NFL 2012" while playing every down on your mother's forehead at the dinner table, would you?
All of these (admittedly) bizarre scenarios are hypothetical realities with MicroVision's pico projector with a touch-interactive display. It has the power to transform anything you project onto a wall from your laptop or smartphone into a touch-friendly screen. A comparatively small company based in Redmond, Wash., with a little more than 100 employees, MicroVision is the other "Micro" company in that town. But what it has introduced in Las Vegas is a product that can run with the big boys.
At the Consumer Electronics Show, MicroVision executives showed me an eye-opening glimpse of what looks like the future. Its projector, about the size of a greeting card, hooks up to any laptop or smartphone and emits a 720p high-definition display. That may seem impressive enough, but the real magic occurs, thanks to some fancy sensors: They allow the person standing next to that projection on the wall to control the content of the projection -- a Microsoft Word document, a video game or a gallery of photos, whatever -- by running fingers over the projection itself.
It's a bit of a clichè, but the closest analogy for what this technology enables is really from a scene in "Minority Report," in which Tom Cruise swipes, slides and pushes asides frames on a glass display. But in this case, you can project onto any surface and, so long as the sensors are in line, you can control the projection anywhere, according to MicroVision. (Hence the idea of playing "Angry Birds" on your mother's forehead.)
The best uses for MicroVision's PicoMagic display go beyond a futuristic form of gaming; its promotional materials feature two businessmen controlling the sizes of charts and graphs at a corporate presentation. There is also an obvious application for the classroom or anyone speaking in front of a large audience giving a projected presentation.
Since the content of the presentation can be controlled from right next to the projection rather than at the computer, there is no need to ask an assistant to click to the next slide, highlight something on the computer or zoom in on something. The presenter can do that with a Tom Cruise-esque glide of the hand against the projected image.
But at the show it was the gaming application that caught my eye, as I got to play a very cool helicopter shooter game that was projected against a wall inside a suite at the Venetian.
MicroVision's Mark Burson, in the video below, demonstrates that helicopter game for our camera (alas, Burson looks little like Tom Cruise). Keep in mind, that the helicopter game is playing on a laptop and its screen is being projected onto a wall. To control the helicopter on the screen, Burson is simply moving a pencil with a sensor in front of the projector, guiding the helicopter where he wants it to go using nothing but his fingers.
Feast your eyes on the technology that could one day allow you to play any video game, anywhere, at any time, on any surface.