SpaceTop 3D see-through computer revealed at TED 2013 – could be in commercial use within 10 years

26th March 2013

SpaceTop 3D See-Through Computer

Here at Barber, we are always on the lookout for new gadgets that might enhance our retail or customer experience designs so we were very excited to see this new see-through 3D computer revealed at last month’s TED Conference in Los Angeles.

The transparent interface of the ‘SpaceTop’ 3D desktop allows users to reach inside the machine and touch the content. Allowing people to interact with a computer in the same way they might interact with a solid object and ultimately transforming computing into a far more intuitive and natural experience. TED fellow Jinha Lee, who has been developing the SpaceTop in collaboration with Microsoft says that he can see the system – which is comprised of a transparent LED display with built in cameras which track the user’s gestures and eye movements – coming into general use within a decade. Lee explains how the design was inspired by research on the human need to interact with things:

“Spatial memory, where the body intuitively remembers where things are, is a very human skill…If you are working on a document you can pick it up and flip through it like a book…The gap between what the designer thinks and what the computer can do is huge. If you can put your hands inside the computer and handle digital content you can express ideas more completely,”

Lee describes his ultimate goal as uniting the digital and physical worlds:

“I don’t want to look back on my life and find that I have just been typing on a keyboard,” he said.

“It is one of our key human skills to be able to interact with 3D spaces and I wanted to let people do the same with digital content. With the first computers there was a huge gap but that gap is getting smaller with things such as touchscreens, the only boundary left is our imagination.”

As modern retailers move to incorporate new technology such as iPads and interactive displays in their stores and enrich or extend the customer experience via smartphone apps and multi-channel retailing, now is perhaps the time to think about how this new technology might be utilised by the retail industry in the future. Imagine online grocery shopping where you can squeeze the fruits to see how fresh they are – or fashion shopping where you can feel the fabrics or textures – time to start thinking ahead to make Lee’s boundless vision become a profitable reality.


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