“Because the user interaction takes place in real time, performance is important,” says Harrison, “we’ve managed to get this working on an ordinary laptop, but it could also be handled by another device in the home like a set top box.” Intel recently announced it would be providing its one-gigahertz Atom processor for Google’s TV set top boxes, giving this platform enough power to take on such extra work.
“This can really apply to any countertop,” says Harrison, “it could be your coffee table, or a bathroom surface recognizing the pills you need to take.” Interactive tabletops of various kinds have been demonstrated before, “but now the projectors are so small you can actually think about sprinkling 10 of these around your house,” says Harrison.
The kitchen is a good place for such a system, says Gene Becker, whose Lightening Laboratories consultancy specializes in ubiquitous computing and augmented reality. “The kitchen is a place that is very information-rich.” He points out that ingredients can be linked with nutritional information or potential recipes.
“The kitchen is also an environment that does not tend to be high tech, though,” Becker adds. As for the prospect of pico-projectors becoming a common feature in the home, Becker suggests that they will become ubiquitous on cell phones first. “I think embedding into the home is one of the later places they’ll appear,” he says, explaining that they’ll be embraced more easily as part of another gadget rather than as a new, specialized one. “Retrofitting projectors is something only the technically minded will do, and it took a long time for even networking infrastructure to be standard in new homes.”