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InfoBinder project

by Itiro Siio

This work is appeared on Japanese technical magazine, Nikkei Electronis 1996.1.1

demo video (MPEG 2.1MB)
demo video (MPEG 13.4MB)


Siio, "InfoBinder: Apointing Device for Virtual Desktop System"
(Proc. of HCI International '95, Yokohama 07/12/95)
Symbiosis of Human and Artifact 20B, pp261-264, 1995,
Elsevier Science B. V. , ISBN 0-444-81795 6

A Pointing Device for Virtual Desktop System

1. Abstruct

InfoBinder is a new wireless pointing device that provides an information-binding function in a virtual reality environment. Each device has a unique ID number and is mapped to an object such as a telephone directory in the computer system.

2. Virtual Desktop

This page discusses the application of InfoBinder to a virtual desktop system, where a computer-generated image is projected onto a work table.
A first prototype was build by installing theprojector and the camera 140 cm above a work table with dimensions of 150 cm x 80 cm, and a computer image was projected on the table.(Figure 1)

Figure 1. Virtual desktop system overview.

This type of desktop display was proposed by P. Wellner [1]. The projected image used in my system is a common desktop metaphor consisting of icons and windows. In this metaphor, icons and windows represent computer objects such as documents, folders, trash cans, printers, and database objects. An icon represents an object that has been shrunk to make it easier to handle. A window represents an object that has been opened to allow the information it contains to be browsed and manipulated.In addition to these computer objects (virtual objects), real objects such as sheets of paper, telephones, and calculators can also coexist on the same work table.

3. InfoBinder hardware

Figure 2 (right) shows an InfoBinder, a small pointing device, with a push button and an LED. The position of the device is detected by means of a video camera positioned over the table that senses light from the LED.The light from the LED is modulated to carry a unique ID number for each InfoBinder. This mechanism allows each InfoBinder to be identified. More than one InfoBinder, each with a unique ID number, can be used at the same time on the desktop.

Figure 2.Right: InfoBinder deviceLeft: It can be attached to a real object such as a telephone by velcro
InfoBinder works in two modes:

  • Pointer mode
    This is the initial mode. An InfoBinder works like a conventional pointing device such as a mouse. It can manipulate open objects in window form.When a window is closed, the InfoBinder goes into the binder mode.

  • Binder mode
    Each InfoBinder can hold an object if the object's windows is closed. This follows the analogy of a paper binder that holds information written on sheets of paper. In this mode, the icon of the object follows the InfoBinder when the user drags the device.When the device is double-clicked, the bound object is released and opened as a window. The device then goes into the pointer mode.

4. Example of a telephone directory

To understand how the device is used, let us take an example in which it is holding an online telephone directory. The InfoBinder can be attached to a telephone with velcro, as shown in the left side of Figure 2. Although the metaphor is a simple one of attaching a memo containing a phone number to a telephone, it gives an ordinary telephone a powerful directory function. This is an example of cooperative work between a real object (a telephone) and a virtual object (an on-line directory).
To use the phone number object, the InfoBinder should be removed when it is attached to a telephone. If the device is dragged on the desktop, the icon of the object will follow the device (Figure 3). If the icon is double-clicked, a phone number window will be opened on the desktop (Figure 4). At this moment, the InfoBinder will go into the pointing-device mode, and the user can search for a number and dial it.

Figure 3. The icon follows when an object is bound to an InfoBinder.

If the icon is double-clicked, a phone number window will be opened on the desktop (Figure 4). At this moment, the InfoBinder will go into the pointing-device mode, and the user can search for a number and dial it.

Figure 4. An example of online phone number objects.

5. Merits of InfoBinder

The InfoBinder device resolves issues in a virtual desktop environment.
  • First, it provides a concrete representation of a virtual object. It gives solid bodies to icons. Users can handle the objects represented by projected icons easily, because they can feel a reaction, and could arrange, store, and carry such objects as if they were handling, say, a real paper binder holding information.
  • Second, the functions of real objects could be expanded by attaching the InfoBinder to them. In the above example, a simple telephone acquires an on-line directory and dialing function in cooperation with the projected virtual object. The InfoBinder shows this mechanism in an intuitive manner. Users can easily understand how to add and use the new functions.

[1] Pierre Wellner, "The DigitalDesk Calculator: Tangible Manipulation on a Desk Top Display"UIST '91, November 11-13, 1991. Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Papers & presentations on this project

Siio,I.:InfoBinder: A Pointing Device for Virtual Deaktop System, Proceedings of HCI InternationalÅe95, pp.261-264, Elsevier Science, July 1995.
(PDF file (30KB) is here), (PS file (87KB)is here)

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