Guest post by Kit Pierce

At its best, Holodesk, the latest 3-D technology system recently unveiled by Microsoft, is a sort of cross-pollination and hybrid-fusion of William Gibson’s Neuromancer trilogy and the type of screen-saver, hologram gimmickry that Philip K. Dick put to diabolical use in his dystopian short stories and novels. At its worst, however, Holodesk reminds you what it would look like if you put Disney World’s Tomorrowland and the Tron motorcycles in a sci-fi blender and hit grind, crush and pulse. What, then, are we really supposed to think of this new 3-D holographic display? In corporate tech speak: is this product a game changer or is it just another high-tech toy that once its trendy shelf-life expires, will find itself in the dustbin alongside Android Tablets, Windows Phone 7 and Facebook Timelines?

How Does it Work?
Holodesk employs a webcam and Kinect technology, allowing the user to pick up and handle virtual, 3-D software constructs. In its current form, these Holodesk constructs include things like simple balls and blocks, but, of course the technology is more complex than that. The Kinect technology traces the user’s hands and face and beam-splitters measure depth and graphic algorithms match the signals.

One drawback already is that the user of Holodesk needs to look through a mirror to see the 3-D images. This seems a bit antiquated. A second drawback might be its cumbersome and unwieldy size. The system is about as large as a filing cabinet. Do you remember those cell phones in the 1980s that looked more like a size 15 men’s shoe that a communication device? Yes, there is a sense of déjà vu.

A Blast From the Past
Lumio, an Israeli company, developed this type of sense motion technology over a decade ago and it is believed that IBM worked on something similar even before that. What sets the Microsoft system apart is its sophisticated beam splitting technology and processing algorithm. The question remains: do we really need an interactive 3-D device in a world that is already cluttered with countless devices?

Scientists and technology wizards have talked about holograms since the days of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, but for all the latest breakthroughs and innovative gadgetry on the market, wouldn’t you rather go to a 3-D movie than sit home and play with virtual balls and blocks? It will be interesting to see how Microsoft will markets Holodesk, and if the technology will have any impact in the future.

What Halodesk Could Mean for the Future
In its current stage, Holodesk looks like a modern video game for a child under ten, and its size and shape are certainly akin to those large Pac-Man machines you used to find in the local arcade. However, Holodesk also looks as if I could be an important learning tool for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. With autism, depth perception and motor skills are often impaired, and Holodesk might turn out to be an educational tool for them. It also provides the type of entertainment, fun and interactive hands-on learning experience that psychologists and counselors admire.

It is difficult to judge a new piece of technology when it still appears to be in its infancy. However, once it is unveiled for public analysis, the fate of that technology is in the voice and hands of the people. Right now, Holodesk looks more like a novelty gaming system of yesteryear than a laser beam to the stars, but only time will tell.

About the Author

Kit Pierce loves to read classic literature and blogs about human rights. In her spare time, she writes for She’s interested in steampunk, likes watching funny cat videos, and enjoys discussions about philosophy.