New Ghost technology allows users to pull objects and data from gadgets into 3D world

New technology that will allow consumers to use their fingertips to literally drag data out of touchscreen displays is in the works.

GHOST (Generic, Highly-Organic Shape-Changing Interfaces) research project is creating technology that will allow the data or objects in gadgets to be pulled out of touchscreen displays and brought into the 3-D world.

Ghost imagines a world in where people can use their fingertips to pull objects out of a hard screen then manipulate it while it’s suspended in the air. The real kicker is that your fingertips will feel the data as though it were a physical object while you’re manipulating it. The concept is like being able to feel a ghost.

Ghost researchers say the technology is made possible with ultrasound levitation technology and deformable screens. Once pulled out of the 2-D world, the 3-D objects can then be manipulated.

“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 and University of Copenhagen Professor Kasper Hornbæk, in a statement. “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.”

Although still in its young stages, Ghost research has already yielded several intriguing prototypes.

One is the ‘Emerge’ prototype that lets users pull bar chart data out of a screen using their fingertips. Once pulled out of the screen, the data can be manipulated by hand into different patterns or broken down individually, by row and by column.

‘Morphees’ is another prototype, which uses flexible mobile devices made with Lycra or alloy displays. Morphees can bend, stretch and change shape automatically. If a user needs to enter credit card details or a social security number while in a public area, the screen could automatically bend to shield your fingers so that others cannot see your private data entry.

Another prototype in the works are televisions where a user can watch a movie, for example, on a larger screen. The Ghost technology allows the screen to ‘grow itself’ to a larger size then shrink when the movie is over.

“Displays which change shape as you are using them are probably only five years off now,” noted Professor Hornbæk. “If you want your smartphone to project the landscape of a terrain 20 or 30 cm [8 to 12 inches] out of the display, that’s a little further off — but we’re working on it!”

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