Microsoft’s Project Zanzibar displays physical objects on PC screens

Costea Lestoc By: Costea Lestoc
2 minute read
Microsoft Project Zanzibar

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Microsoft’s Project Zanzibar is an entirely new sensing platform that is shaped in the form of a flexible, portable mat which can locate, sense and communicate with items. It can also detect a user’s touch.

Microsoft’s researchers in Cambridge, UK, and Redmond, WA embarked on this remarkable journey to blur the barrier between the digital and physical worlds with Project Zanzibar.

Here’s how Project Zanzibar works

The Zanzibar mat mixes capacitive sensing and Near Field Communication in an innovative way. It enables multi-touch and hover gesture input to coexist with physical object manipulation and control.

The project also introduces the power of portability in a tangible UI. According to Microsoft’s notes, “rather than provide its own display, it takes advantage of existing devices such as tablets. Roll it up, stow it and break it out at a picnic or on a train trip. Or in any room in the house that has a screen.

According to Microsoft Senior Researcher Nicolas Villar, the target of this project is to make the technology invisible so that you can enjoy the power of technology without feeling that you’re using it.

Project Zanzibar has benefits for kids including play, scenarios, and learning

Using Project Zanzibar, kids can tell stories by manipulating props and toys on the mat in order to control their corresponding graphical avatars. With the help of additional accessories, kids can change the setting of a virtual scene. Children can experiment with role-playing and offering unique personalities to their toys.

Through Project Zanzibar, Microsoft envisioned a vast family of educational apps including spelling and basic coding exercises using blocks. This will allow kids to incorporate their physical actions and natural senses when they are interacting with computers. This will lead to an enhanced learning process. Project Zanzibar will offer experiences beyond simple interaction with tokens.

Microsoft plans to present an in-depth description of Project Zanzibar at CHI 2018 in Montreal, and you can read more about the project on Microsoft’s official notes.

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