There are a number of different display technologies that provide the illusion of 3D images on a 2D screen. A team of researchers led by the University of Bristol has offered a new take on things by creating “Tilt Display” – a prototype screen that's split in a 3x3 configuration with the nine individual sub-screens physically moving and tilting up and down to physically represent the three dimensional content being displayed.

The Tilt Display prototype is around half the size of a standard 10-inch tablet with the nine individual display components able to move up and down vertically and tilt along one or more axes. For example, when displaying a landscape, the displays showing the sky will stay flat, while those displaying the ground will raise and tilt to reflect the relative height of the terrain. When displaying video, the screens will move dynamically to match the changing images.

The divided display can also be used to let multiple users work separately and collaboratively on the same display. When two users are sharing the device, three sub screens on either side will tilt out towards the respective users with the three in the middle remaining blank, while in for-user configuration, each user will have two sub screens at their disposal with only the central screen going unused.

Sriram Subramanian, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the University of Bristol’s Department of Computer Science’s Interaction and Graphics group says potential applications for Tilt Displays include “collaboration, terrain modeling, 3D video that is beyond auto-stereoscopic 3D and tangible gaming.”

Research into how users would adapt to the technology found that on-screen gestures were the preferred method of interaction when the various display components were flat, but that mid-air gestures were preferred when the displays were in a non-planar configuration.

University of Bristol researchers are presenting a paper on the Tilt Display at MobileHCI 2012, which is winding up today.

The video below shows the Tilt Display prototype in action.

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