Monday, August 8, 2011

Stepping "around" constraints to "create" anew

An example of leveraging tools combined with unconstrained approaches to innovation.

From Popular Science "Students' Innovative 3-D Vision System Wins Prize" here. Jacob Ward writes:

"In the end, however, we chose the entry from Tsinghua University, China. Five students there built an entirely new 3-D imaging system. They conquered the classic glasses-or-no-glasses problem by simply stepping around it: instead of a conventional flat screen, they built a four-sided glass enclosure which displays the four sides of a simulated object. The system scans an object on a turntable, acquires the image data, and reproduces it by projecting the image with four projectors onto four panes of glass. Walk around the simulated object on display, and it’s like walking around it in real life. In addition, the system recognizes gestures, allowing you to rotate and zoom in on an object with your hands. You can imagine the implications for medical analysis, enhanced teaching, point-of-sale displays, and telecommunication.

The thing that blew my mind, however, was the sheer discipline of these kids in dealing with costs. They had developed several alternative systems, they told me, including one that used a rotating mirror and a high-speed projector. But they had given themselves the goal of keeping the thing cheap, and this was the cheapest workable solution.

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