It wouldn't be a CEATEC show without a new, left-field interface. This year, it's Asukanet's turn, with its Aerial Imaging Plate (AI Plate). "The one aerial imaging device that will change the future" is how the company's selling it, and although we can't quite vouch for that, the interactive concepts we played with were impressive enough. The plate combines reflective surfaces with a tablet interface, although the magic is how the touch display is projected into midair. Like 3D TVs, there's a specific sweet spot you'll need to stand in to use it, but Asukanet reckons that's part of the appeal, with one of its concept ideas involving a touchpad interface for entering PIN codes -- if only the user can see it, that's pretty secure, right? Other benefits include hygiene: with no physical surface to interact with, there's less chances of picking up any bugs the previous user might have had.
The first demo entailed a shopping mall menu, with a requisite anime hostess to help get us where we needed to go. There's a motion sensor built into the unit to track your hand and the character's eyes trailed our finger as it went around the ethereal display. We had to actually poke our finger through the projection to register a hit and get further into the system. To return to the home screen, we simply swiped back across the screen -- it's all very tablet user-friendly.
However, it's a little trickier to describe how the projection looked: our photo above suggests that the image is resting on the flat surface, but in the flesh it floats above that, at a 45-degree angle to the user with no 3D effect or flicker. It's a single two-dimensional pane, making it easy (once you've got the knack) to navigate through. We had no issues ordering plenty of fictional sushi plates on the second restaurant-esque demonstration. The company is still reaching out to businesses looking to adopt the tech, so there's nothing approaching a release date, or even a place where you could test the tech for yourself... unless, of course, you can scrape a trip to Japan before Saturday.
Asukanet Aerial Imaging (AI) Plate demo at CEATEC 2013