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Three-dimensional display technology projects onto drops of falling water

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Three-dimensional Tetris on Aqualux 3DA team of roboticists and computer scientists has created a truly three-dimensional display scheme, with multiple layers of water serving as the display surfaces.

Each "screen" comprises a steady stream of water drops, released in carefully timed horizontal rows, so that at any given moment the screen is fundamentally a lot like a regular television screen, with a neat grid of pixels (or, in this case, volumetric pixels, or "voxels"). The difference—and key advantage—of the system, known as AquaLux 3D, is that the pixels are in motion. By staggering the release of rows of water droplets and targeting a projector to the individual rows of falling drops at different depths, the Carnegie Mellon University team can project a moving image onto one layer of water drops while casting another image onto a layer in the foreground or background.

"By carefully generating several layers of drops so that no two drops occupy the same line-of-sight from the projector, we can use each drop as a voxel that can be illuminated to create a 3-D image," Carnegie Mellon graduate student Peter Barnum said in a prepared statement.

It remains to be seen what uses such a display might bring, but the image above as well as the video below, which explains the principles behind the technology, show one application that is sure to pique geek interest—three-dimensional Tetris.

Photo credit: Carnegie Mellon University


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  1. 1. eddiequest 9:47 pm 07/8/2010

    Hmmmm… A 3D PC water-monitor… :P

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  2. 2. jtdwyer 4:48 am 07/9/2010

    Pretty cool, but how is it on the road, in the turns? Might need further development, more depth.

    I wonder how a set of cloud or bubble chambers might perform? Should provide higher resolution and improved stability, anyway…

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  3. 3. jwinston 11:17 am 07/12/2010

    If the motion is what is important, it seems that it would be much simpler to use a perforated strip running in a loop like a belt. The perforations would function as the spaces between the water drops, while the strip would provide the projection surface.

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  4. 4. jtdwyer 2:52 pm 07/12/2010

    jwinston – Thanks: I’d missed the fact that an apparently front mounted projector (not shown?) must have a clear path to water droplets at each screen depth – there must be a gap between the drops in the front two screens to reach the back screen.

    What a system!? Since there seems to be no physical screen apparatus other than the water droplets, you’d not only have to worry about the curves in the road; you’d have to keep the windows closed and hope no one coughs!

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  5. 5. Neptunerover 3:46 am 07/18/2010

    That thing has a horrible picture. I don’t think 3 successive flat surfaces qualifies as 3D does it? And unless you want to listen to a rainstorm in the movie theater, why? I guess I don’t get it.

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