How difficult is it to bring 3D to only 2D data? That's the question that a group of researchers from Ochanomizu University--an all female school--have come up with an answer to: not very difficult, all you need is a mirror.
Using an iPad and its multitouch capability, the research group from Ochanomizu University is developing a cylindrical mirror and iPad app which can be used to simulate an object in 3D. The technology for the device isn't new; it uses a projection process called "anamorphosis," which means to change from one form to another.
First, the iPad displays a distorted 2D image on its screen. The cylindrical mirror is then placed onto the iPad. Using an interactive system called Anamorphicons, the distorted image is picked up by the mirror, where it is morphed from 2D to 3D. The image no longer appears distorted on on the cylindrical mirror.
The interactive system that Anamorphicons uses allows you to rotate the 3D image by simply rotating the cylinder mirror. Since the iPad image is only 2D, the iPad actually uses a large number of images of the same item, from different angles. As the mirror rotates it communicates with the iPad via touch and it tells the 2D image to also rotate (i.e. display a different angle 2D image). According to DigInfo TV, this feature makes it easy to show content in 3D.
Inside of the cylinder are two touch pens which are connected to eachother by wiring and an aluminum plate to conduct electricity. The two pens create the same iPad response that would occur if you were touching the iPad's multitouch screen with two fingers; if you move your fingers from side to side then the distorted 2D object moves side to side. An iPad application calculates the coordinates of the cylinder and determines the proper angle and position to place the 2D data.
The group hopes that the Anamorphicons may some day be used to enhance shopping sites and make them more user-friendly. As a person with an engineering background I can see this having a multitude of additional uses, such as in CAD modeling. Who knows, maybe this device will go to other screens and not just the iPad.