Showcasing products and arousing emotion with holography

Steinbeis researchers develop an interactive exhibition tool: Holographic Interface

For decades, digital media were defined by user interfaces that were predominantly dictated by the concept of transferring content metaphorically from an analog world. For a long time, operating principles were constrained by the nature of established input devices. Now, technical evolution makes it possible to present increasingly complex content with increasingly shorter half-lives. This is a new challenge in terms of the way we process graphical content and display intuitive interaction scenarios. To present content that is apparently difficult to access or is purely factual ¬– and maintain interest and the value to observers over time, as they view and work with the content – they have to be pulled in on an emotional level. The Steinbeis Research Center for Design und Systems, which works in the field of applied interdisciplinary research with a focus on digital information media, has developed an interactive exhibit for Coperion GmbH.

The design brief entailed coherently combining graphical elements with an operating logic that matched the medium. Information would only be absorbed in the long term if people enjoyed using the system and were intrigued. The Steinbeis experts developed an exhibition concept for Coperion that engaged the observer with a 3D hologram. A real-time 3D simulation now shows all processes used within a fully integrated packaging system used for granular bulk materials. The hologram can be rotated freely in space and, in some areas, cross-sections can be shown to make otherwise invisible processes and functions instantly visible. By activating certain hotspots, additional media such as animations or 2D films can be called up and viewed “mid-air.”

Users interact with the system through contactless “micro-gestures” of the hand, the syntax of which is based on analog metaphors. So swiping or pointing generates a response in the digital space that would also be expected in the real world. The system works with a Leap Motion sensor, which uses an integrated infrared camera to detect the tiniest movements of the fingers or hand and translates these into digital movements. An interface of this kind was considered the most intuitive control for presenting 3D digital information since it captures movements in space.

The animated components can be viewed from all sides as they hover like ghosts in space. This holographic effect actually goes back many years to an illusion that was made popular by John Henry Pepper in the mid-18th century: Pepper’s Ghost. Transferred to an interactive digital medium, the concept makes it possible to present products in an intriguing way and make content more fun. The device was first presented at the Interpack 2014 trade show.

The development of new instruments for communicating content is a key area of focus for the Steinbeis Research Center for Design and specific interfaces makes it possible to demonstrate complex processes in a way that can be understood. The resulting “knowledge tools” can be adapted to the specific information and communication aims, and hidden processes can be unveiled. When acquiring information, intuitive controls are just as important as the emotional experience.

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