​New cursor technology enables 3D interaction

Researchers from the University of Montreal have developed a method for computer cursors to operate and interact in 3D environments, opening up design opportunities in several fields.

Researchers at the University of Montreal have developed techniques that enable computer cursors to interact in 3-D in single or multiuser, local or remote collaboration scenarios.

The technology, unveiled at the SIGGRAPH 2015 Conference in Los Angeles, allows users to control the cursor via a tablet, sweeping it through objects to select them, and using gestures such as pinching and swiping to manipulate the objects.

“Our new technology challenges the notion of what a cursor is and does,” said lead researcher Professor Tomás Dorta, from the University of Montreal’s School of Design.

“The cursor becomes a drawing and controlling plane. The techniques we’re unveiling today involve using a tablet to control the cursor, but as it does not necessarily rely on external tracking of the user’s movements, eventually other devices could be used, such as smart phones or watches.”

A tablet is used to control the cursor.
A tablet is used to control the cursor.

The team has been testing the new technology alongside their own Hyve-3D design system, which uses an optical illusion created by a high-resolution projector, a specially designed spherically concave fabric screen, and a dome mirror projecting the images onto the screen. 

The Hyve-3D system and the 3D cursor are backed by Univalor, the university’s technology commercialisation unit. According to Dorta, the system has a multitude of potential uses.  

The cursor has been tested alongside the team's Hyve-3D system.

“Beyond its utility for sketching, we believe the 3D cursor has applications in a wide range of fields, such as architectural design, medical imaging and of course computer games,” he said.  

“This isn’t a gimmicky rebirth of the cursor, it’s about rethinking how humans interact with computers as part of the creative process.”