Researchers are investigating a means of virtually projecting images from handheld devices onto computer screens. Beyond simply being a means of screen sharing across devices, the research looks at traditional projection - physically shining a still or moving image onto a flat service - as a metaphor for multi-device interaction. In a video demo, researchers manipulate the "projected" image on the larger screen using iPhone accelerometer controls and gestures.

The idea appears to be to create a simple, intuitive set of controls which have none of the shortcomings of traditional projection, such as losing image intensity at greater distances, and the image undergoing keystone distortion when projected from an angle (though it can be replicated if desired). The team says their virtual projection is "especially suitable for complex projections" such as scaling and rotating images.

At the moment, the team's prototype requires a PC running dedicated software, though the software can accept multiple incoming signals, allowing users to collaborate and share a number of images on a large screen simultaneously. All the information exchange is carried by WiFi.

The team is comprised of Dominikus Baur, Sebastian Boring and Steven Feiner of the University of Munich, University of Calgary and Columbia University respectively. Their paper, Virtual Projection: Exploring Optical Projection as a Metaphor for Multi-Device Interactions, is available on the project website, though Baur perhaps sums the idea up best in a recent blog post:

"Imagine having a VP server running on every display that you encounter in your daily life and being able to 'borrow' the display space for a while (e.g., to look something up on a map)," he says. "Give it a few more years (and a friendly industry consortium) and this could become reality."

The video below illustrates the type of things that can be done with the technology.