Fraunhofer's 3D kiosk excites punters

Boffins also unveil multi-sensor armband

CeBIT Pity if you will the poor boffins of the Fraunhofer Institute - Germany's largest technology research organisation - who have been dragged kicking and screaming from their cosy labs to display their wares at CeBIT.

Their journey has not, however, been in vain. Fraunhofer's 3D kiosk in Hall 11 has been attracting a lot of interest.

Electronic kiosk systems are normally nothing to get excited about - but then of course the information has hitherto been displayed only in 2D. Fraunhofer's new system lets visitors view objects in 3D without having to wear cumbersome glasses. What's more, they can rotate and turn the objects using simple hand movements; the high-resolution 3D objects appear to float in front of the screen.

Here is how it works: Two images - one for each eye - are subdivided into fine vertical stripes and alternately displayed next to each other, a bit like the old 3D postcards. A prism sheet placed in front of the display directs each image to the appropriate eye. To prevent the viewer from perceiving separate images, a camera tracks the position of the head and automatically adjusts the stripes for the correct viewing angle. Interesting stuff.

That Fraunhofer Institute kit in full

On a rather more practical note, three Fraunhofer institutes are working together on various telemedicine applications, including a new multi-sensor armband. The wireless device measures a variety of parameters such as temperature, pulse, blood oxygen saturation and heart rate. All that data is transmitted to a base station and then forwarded to the doctor via the Internet or a direct communications link.

According to Fraunhofer researchers, the long-term aim for the technology is the integration of sensors and actuators as part of a 'Personal Area Network'. For instance, a glucose sensor could measure a diabetic patient's blood sugar level and transmit the data to the monitoring station. If the value is too high, the station sends a signal to an implanted insulin pump which administers more insulin.

The sensors could be beneficial not only for the ill and the elderly. Sportsmen and women could monitor vital parameters while training, Fraunhofer researchers believe. ®

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