3D? Whatev! Obake Is A "2.5D" Elasticated Touch Screen Display
How does the idea of an elasitcated screen sit with you? Is your nose turning up right now? Are you shaking your head with disdain and contempt? It sounds like something that Fisher Price might use for a My First Computer toy that a baby can play with without damaging themselves or the screen—but it's an actual protoype from Dhairya Dand (mastermind behind those LED ice cubes that tell you when you've had enough to drink) and Rob Hemsley from the MIT Media Lab.
With Obake, they've created a shapeshifting 2.5D elastic display, which if nothing else sounds much better than just "monitor". The display they propose is made from liquid rubber cast into a screen, with a Kinect and projector allowing you to interact with it. "Screens as they exist today are flat, 2D and rigid; even the 3D displays we have today are not true 3D—they are optical illusions." they lament. "We created a 2.5D display that is shape changing with the help of actuators, depth cameras, projector and a silicone screen."
Now, why would you need a shape shifting display? Well, you might want to use it as a trampoline for your pet mouse. Or, you could use it to bring data alive in a way that's isn't possible with a 2D screen. So in the video above they "Create mountains by pulling them out of the screen, draw rivers with your fingers, elevate an entire terrain to see a cut section view." At the moment this is just a working prototype and you might laugh at how this could be useful commercially, professionally, or otherwise. But it's an example of crossing the physical/digital divide in a very tactile way that lifts the experience from the flat screen. Just wait until iPhone 40 when we'll be mocking those heathens of 2013 and their touchscreens made from hard materials.