From a flat glossy surface today to rippling three dimensional pixels of light tomorrow, the future of your screen time could be changing in surprising new ways.
Researchers at Lancaster University, Bristol University, and Nokia Research have built a prototype 3D display which tilts and moves to reflect the shape of objects appearing on screen – whether they be the contours of a mountainous landscape or the petals of a flower.
The custom-built prototype includes nine mini screens which each tilt independently of one another and can rise up and down, bringing a whole new layer of information to the viewer.
Although still an early design, the prototype gives users an impression of what the technology could be capable of in future. It has also given researchers chance to gauge public opinion and begin thinking about potential applications – from 3D maps to braille text – and understand how users might interact with such devices.
Lancaster University’s Dr Jason Alexander, who helped build the prototype, said: "To me, this is where touch screen technology is going. There is nothing tactile about our current screens, they are flat and uniform which means you have to look at the screen in order to interact with it.
"Tilt displays are a completely new area of human computer interaction, perhaps we won't see products in the shops for another 20 years but one of the reasons we are doing this research is to explore and demonstrate the potential these screens have and to explain to material scientists why it would be worth investing time and money in this area.
“Ultimately you can imagine the kind of effect you would get if each pixel of the screen on your mobile phone, tablet or television was a small square which could move independently of the pixels around it. Maps would come to life in 3D, buttons could appear at your fingertips, characters could rise up from the screen and even photographs would become more like the 3D objects they depict in real life.
“The potential applications are numerous, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.”