The transparent touchscreen has been a familiar trope in big budget sci-fi, from Steven Spielberg's Minority Report to Iron Man—an amazing idea, but currently just a tantalizing concept IRL. Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), however, are trying to bring this concept from fantasy to reality... and then some.
The team has developed a device called TransWall, an intuitive combination of projection mapping, IR touch sensors, and a haptic surface transducer. The device includes a pair of projectors that display a transparent interface onto each side a glass wall. From there, the sensors pick up the the location and pressure of fingers and hands, and the display reacts accordingly.
Depending on the application, the surface transducer vibrates in response to certain actions, allowing the glass screen to respond to users haptically, as well as visually. A microphone system allows people on either side of the glass to communicate without raising their voices, bringing the sense of sound into the mix, too. All TransWall needs is the smell-tacular messaging app oSnap and it will pretty much be a humanoid wall (save the ability to taste).
The company shared TransWall at the Siggraph Conference last year, and suggested other uses for the device, such as a way for quarantined patients to have more personal interactions with friends and family. On the lighter side, demonstrational footage also features fun games, interfaces, and doodle.
If it's opened up to proper development, TransWall could possibly create a whole new paradigm for communication anywhere there's a pane of glass. Imagine a future where all office's windows are actually TransWalls. You could be looking out of the top floor of a skyscraper, press your hands on the glass... and order a pizza. What a world, right?