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Zaekranye Facetop: helping hand from otherworldly friend

Imagine that the texts, folders, and other objects on your monitor suddenly became translucent, and you saw that another person was sitting on that side of the glass and, pointing at your screen with a finger, rudely controlled your applications. Carroll through the looking glass? Without this, there were some.

This unusual video conferencing system was created at the University of North Carolina (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Its authors – David Stotts, Jason Smith and Karl Gyllstrom believe that it can be used not only for video conferencing, but also for presentations, as well as for training.

However, having familiarized yourself with the capabilities of the Facetop interface (pdf-document), you yourself can easily invent a lot of possible uses for it – from engineering and design to games.

So, the system mixes the usual image of your desktop (it becomes completely translucent) with a full-screen image of your interlocutor.

We note right away: if you wish, you can change the ratio of the brightness of these two layers of the image, depending on the comfort of viewing and the current task.

It would seem that there are not enough differences from the usual videoconference. But if you look closely, you can see – the difference is great.

First, according to scientists, switching attention between adjacent windows on the screen (text, pictures, graphics, etc., on the one hand, and your visitor’s face, on the other) is more difficult for the brain than transferring attention through layers (to the depth of the image).

Mutual transparency of the user and the desktop can be adjusted (photo from

Mutual transparency of the user and the desktop can be adjusted (photo from
But the main thing is that your interlocutor sees the same desktop (only in the background, respectively – you) and can point you to the objects that need to be changed by simply holding your finger to the screen (say, highlighting a line in the program, which you are debugging together).
Stop, the meticulous reader will notice, if we are, as it were, sitting face to face – those folders and symbols that are for me on the right – will my visitor on his screen be on the left, and all the inscriptions will also be mirrored? And how is it possible to “the same desktop”?

We warned – it didn’t go without a mirror: each of the interlocutors sees a normal desktop, but a mirror image of their opponent.

So, pointing to the left side of the screen at your place – your virtual counterpart (so you will see it) will stretch a finger to your left side of the screen.

The system can impose on the desktop several users at once (photo from

The system can impose on the desktop several users at once (photo from
“Cooperation based on the Internet has always been hindered by the lack of presence effect, lack of knowledge of what exactly your partners are doing,” Professor Stotts explained the main advantage of the novelty. “Sign language is very important for understanding.”
Note, the program, as it turned out, can be useful to one user – as a mouse substitute or touch-sensitive display. After all, it (the program) includes the recognition of the movement of a finger and can, thus, control applications.

In this case, the user will see himself on the screen, as in a mirror.

And another small thing is active control over the transparency of the desktop, depending on whether the user brings his finger to the screen to fix something there or remove his hand.

Such an opportunity would be useful for presentations, the authors believe the work.

A logical continuation of the idea is a version of a program called FaceSpace.

It already allows users to create “hot” points on the screen and link hyperlinks to them, which also work for the other party.

And you can also impose (again in a translucent form) on the image of new objects.
For example, handwritten inscriptions – an additional camera shoots them on a special board.

In a word, to the illusion of the complete presence of a distant interlocutor that science fiction writers like to depict so much, it seems, there are not so many left.

It is curious that the creation of a computer system has pushed the case.

Somehow, Stottts managed some application, while displaying it additionally and on a large wall screen, and even within the desktop, David himself was displayed sitting in front of the computer (on which the camera was attached).

Only now Stotts was displayed “mirror” (why he didn’t turn his image over, now he won’t even remember).

Then Jason came to a colleague, and they began to lively discuss something in the program. Smith noticed that when Stott pointed to something on the computer, his little double was stretching his arm in the same direction.

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