I've been watching Microsoft's latest technologies; Microsoft Surface - the applications here are going to be really cool! They refer to "NUI - Natural User Interface"...breaking the paradigm of having to know the keyboard, mouse, icons, etc. - environment within which all things can be physically/virtually interacted with - check out this video of them discussing the NUI (btw: really funny seeing a YouTube video embedded within a Microsoft website!)
Here are some cool videos demonstrating various applications. I showed Bethany and Amber these today and their reaction; Dad, we want one for our room! Started imagining Google Earth/Ocean/Sky on this...2010 kiosks for tourists and locals arriving at the airport and at the stadiums...on my study wall...kitchen counter (built in recipes with social networking links)...imagine a nightclubs dance floor NUI enabled...mmmm! Check out the spherical application - nice - I want Google Earth on there with StreetView!
Ok, more serious and valuable would be the medical/health uses of such an environment! Nevermind the military applications...
Also see the Secondlight project - best described here; "The screen is an LCD that can switch between opaque and transparent, alternating 60 times per second. There are two projectors underneath, each one flickering at 30 times per second. One of the projectors is timed to shine up under the screen when it's opaque, while the other is—yep, you guessed it—timed to shine through when the screen is transparent. Anything held above the screen will show what's being projected by that second projector.The craziest thing about it is that the second projector can actually follow special objects, projecting the runner you see in the first video anywhere the panel goes, and in the appropriate proportion."
The "it" factor for this technology is that it truly places a layer on top of the user usage skills requirement(s)...immersive and virtually real physical manipulation of objects and data is a new paradigm! Remember that Minority Report scene?!
fyi: Buddy of mine went to a bar in Redmond where they've deployed this NUI on the bar counter...result; the counter has been transformed into an interactive liquid/water surface - so you touch it and ripples span across the counter...coolest thing? Drink is placed on the one end...pushed to the other...ripples across...and it stops with a little virtual splash...price tag pops up, contents of the drink displayed and recommendation of what to order next...and a warning that you can only have one more ;)
Then there's Microsoft's SkyDrive - I just signed up for it - pretty neat but lacks so many features that we've seen in products like Novell's iFolder which was released so so many years ago. Also check out the open source project for source code and setting up your own cloud computing storage solution. (Besides all the features of Skydrive...why does Microsoft not learn to use Ajax more on of their web real estate? Argh, frustrating to browse around and having a new full screen refresh...every single click I make!)