A 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