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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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February 24, 2009 1:54 PM

Scuse me while I pinch the sky: Microsoft's wild new way to move through space, virtual worlds

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft Research is holding its annual TechFest science fair on the Redmond campus this week, showing off advanced research experiments that could eventually work their way into the company's products.

One of the coolest is an experimental interface that lets you control a video projector using gestures, such as pinching your fingers, above the lens to zoom in and around the display. It's a wild experience when added to an upward pointing projector and a domed screen.

Demonstrating the system today, researcher Hrvoje Benko would pinch to zoom around images taken inside the lobby of the Microsoft Research building.

But it was best for exploring the solar system, as captured by Microsoft's Worldwide Telescope - with a few simle gestures, you can zoom up to a planet or nebula or race through the stars at warp speed.

Here's a video I took that shows the system in action, but doesn't capture the immersive feel. The space travel gets cool around 1:12:

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.