Microsoft researchers have developed a touchscreen table which they hope would blur the borders between the real and digital world by taking advantage of the best of each.

Lead researchers Andy Wilson along with colleagues from University of California, Berkeley have designed Pictionaire, 1.8m long table, which is placed directly beneath a ceiling—mounted camera and projector, which can “read” and respond to items placed on the table.

When a user places a sketchbook on the table, the ceiling mounted equipment recognises it by its size and shape, and projects virtual “drag-off” handle onto the corner of the page. If the user swipes over the handle, the camera takes a digital snapshot of the sketchbook page and sends the information to the touchscreen so that a digital version of the page appears on the table.

A similar process works in reverse — a user can drag an image on the touchscreen onto their sketchpad. The ceiling-mounted hardware then projects the image onto the pad and the user can trace key components onto their sketchbook page.

“We’re playing with the concept of moving back and forth between the virtual and the real,” New Scientist magazine quoted Wilson as saying.

Furthermore, when the user places the keyboard onto the touchscreen, the overhead camera recognises it. As the user types, images or words conceptually related to those they type appear on the touchscreen around the keyboard to help in the brainstorming process.

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