'Ghost' tech lets you pull objects out of the screen

'Ghost' technology enables shape-changing displays

European researchers are hoping to revolutionise our interactions with computers by letting users change the shape of displays with their hands.

The project is called Generic, Highly-Organic Shape-Changing Interfaces - GHOST for short.

"It's not only about deforming the shape of the screen, but also the digital object you want to manipulate, maybe even in mid-air," explained GHOST coordinator Kasper Hornbæk from the University of Copenhagen.

"Through ultrasound levitation technology, for example, we can project the display out of the flat screen. And thanks to deformable screens we can plunge our fingers into it."

Probably only five years off

The team has built a series of prototypes of different shape-changing displays. 'Emerge' lets you pull data out of a bar chart with your fingers, and move it around, while 'Morphees' are flexible devices that can change shape automatically according to your needs, stretching to shield your fingers when you type in a pin code for example.

One project at the University of Bristol has spun off into a startup called UltraHaptics, which uses ultrasound to create feeling in mid-air. The company now employs 12 people, and has attracted seed investment in the UK.

"Displays which change shape as you are using them are probably only five years off now," said Hornbæk. "This will have all sorts of implications for the future, from everyday interaction with mobile phones to learning with computers and design work."

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.