Fraunhofer Institute pulls off best 3D demo ever

Every big electronics company is pushing 3D hard, especially here at Japan's CEATEC show, but it was Germany's Fraunhofer Institute who had by far the best demo of 3D tech. Not only does the Free2C kiosk let you see objects in 3D without glasses, but it adds the capability for gesture control, letting you rotate an image just by moving your finger.

Fraunhofer's trick has limitations: The images are static, and only one user can view the image in 3D at a time. That's because the system involves a camera that detects where the viewers eyes are and computes how the image parts should be nested to create the 3D effect. Trying out the display, I found the 3D effect very convincing, with images of a helicopter and a watch appearing as if I could touch them. When I tried, the image responded to my hand movements, moving up, down and around according to my finger. It was all very Minority Report.

Museum exhibits would be a natural application of the technology, and Fraunhofer's literature even suggests it could be useful in "minimal invasive surgery." Uh, right. In any case, the demo left us suitably impressed, until I remembered I wasn't wearing 3D glasses. Then I was blown away.