Head-tracking camera creates 3D PC desktop

Windows Vista
Other attempts have been made to get more out of the 2D desktop

Whatever cute photos or widgets you stick on a computer desktop to spice things up, nothing can change the fact that it's still a very limited flat area that pales beside a real, physical workspace.

Nothing, that is, apart from an ambitious attempt to use a head-tracking camera to turn the desktop into a 3D virtual office space that promises greater usability.

Webcam tracking

The Parallax Augmented Desktop comes from researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan, whose goal is to simulate a much larger working area within the relatively confined 2D screen space.

Using a webcam placed on top of the monitor, the team's software can determine exactly where a user is looking on the screen. If they look, for example to the right, the desktop rotates accordingly, as if to face the right-hand wall of a cube.

Faster option

As you'll see from the videos on the lab's website, the result is a very convincing and looks like an effective way to maximise the virtual workspace.

According to the researchers, tests have shown that the system is easy to use and far faster than using a mouse to move around a space bigger than a normal desktop.

As for the next stage in the project, the tracking software could be used to select icons and menus, possibly making the mouse obsolete entirely.

J Mark Lytle was an International Editor for TechRadar, based out of Tokyo, who now works as a Script Editor, Consultant at NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Writer, multi-platform journalist, all-round editorial and PR consultant with many years' experience as a professional writer, their bylines include CNN, Snap Media and IDG.