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Hand in the game

Human Media Lab at Queen’s unveils hand-held cylindrical display for gaming applications.

Researchers at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab have developed the world’s first hand-held device with a fully cylindrical user interface. The device, dubbed MagicWand, has a wide range of possible implementations, including as a game controller.

MagicWand in use to display a video game character. The device's 340-degree display allows the image to be viewed from nearly all angles, as though the user was really holding it. (Human Media Lab)

Similar to the Nintendo Wii remote, users are able to use physical gestures to interact with virtual objects. The MagicWand, however, takes the user experience one step further, by using the dual screens to represent virtual objects in the user’s hand. The device uses visual perspective correction technology to strengthen the illusion of physical control of the virtual object, changing the view of the object, relative to the user, as it is moved around.

“This, for example, means you can rotate MagicWand and see a gaming character inside it from all sides, as if it were 3D,” says Roel Vertegaal (School of Computing), Director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s. “Smartphones are flat and not ergonomically suitable for use as a controller or pointing device. MagicWand is the first hand-held with a 360 degree high resolution display to have the regular physical affordances of a pointer stick."

MagicWand uses two high definition 720p LG Display Flexible OLED screens powered by Android 4.4 “KitKat” boards. Sensors inside the device capture and transmit movements, as well as adjust how objects are displayed. The screens are synchronized to act as a single, continuous 1440x1280 display. The MagicWand runs the Unity 3D game engine, allowing it to interact with gaming content on consoles over WiFi.

"As the Wii U has shown, the form factor of a controller is really critical when interacting with gaming content," Dr. Vertegaal says. "MagicWand really allows users, for the first time, to play around with gestures while being able to hold gaming visuals literally in their hand. It is the world's first true DisplayObject (an everyday object with an interactive digital skin of pixels), going well beyond what has been demonstrated in any smartphone or controller."

Dr. Vertegaal thinks DisplayObjects with cylindrical form factors will be in the hands of consumers within five years.  Queen’s researchers will unveil the MagicWand prototype at the ACM CHI 2016 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in San Jose, Calif., on May 9. The annual forum is the world’s top conference on human-computer interaction.

This research was supported by Immersion Canada, Inc. and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).