When we think of computer displays, we probably think of something solid and substantial that won't stand up too well when you put a hand through it. Fog screens, that use a curtain of mist on which to display images, have no such weakness, which is one of the reasons a team at the University of Bristol has used the technology to create MisTable, a tabletop display aimed at collaborative efforts.

Like the DisplAir system, the MisTable produces semi-transparent curtains of fog onto which images are projected that can be manipulated by the user. The University of Bristol team, led by Professor Sriram Subramanian and Dr Diego Martinez Plasencia, has supplemented the personal fog screens with a tabletop display to provide a working space that would allow individual or teams of users to work in new ways.

Because they are see-through, the personal fog screen displays could be used by individual users to complement the 2D images being shown on the tabletop display. Thanks to the built in Leap Motion and Kinect motion sensors, users can manipulate 3D images that appear to float in thin air, move content from the fog screen to the tabletop by simply reaching through the image and touching the tabletop, or transfer content from one personal display to another with a pushing motion.

"MisTable broadens the potential of conventional tables in many novel and unique ways," says Professor Subramanian. "The personal screen provides direct line of sight and access to the different interaction spaces. Users can be aware of each other’s actions and can easily switch between interacting with the personal screen to the tabletop surface or the interaction section. This allows users to break in or out of shared tasks and switch between 'individual' and 'group' work."

The University of Bristol team has written a research paper on the MisTable and will be presenting it at the ACM CHI 2014 conference in Toronto later this month. However, we don't have to wait to see the table in action with the team releasing a video that can be viewed below.

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