A hovering display that happens to double as a room humidifier has been created by Displair (Astrakhan, Russia); to produce the in-air effect, a computer image is projected on a thin, upwardly streaming layer of air infused with microscopic water particles. Aided by gesture technology similar to that in Microsoft's Kinect, the user can navigate the screen simply by touching the air layer (see video below). The display was previewed to the public at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013 (January 8 to 11; Las Vegas, NV).
The water droplets in the stream are so small that fingers stay dry, according to Displair. The company says the display will be available initially in the U.S. later in 2013 and is aimed at high-end consumers, health-care professionals, education, hotels, clubs, restaurants, and digital advertisers. The company received a $1 million round of funding in May 2012 from the Leta Group, a Russian investment and new-products management company.
Although no Laser Focus World editor could make it to CES to see the demo, the display appears to use a conventional 2D projector (sorry, no 3D capabilities!) that projects onto the screen either from the front or the back. Projection from the back (perhaps at an angle to avoid glare) would be preferred so that the user's shadow does not become the display's primary feature.
(This video was provided by Displair and was not taken at CES)
Fog and mist displays have been around for decades in the form of laser light shows combined with fogmaking equipment; more recently, a company called FogScreen has created large (up to 2.4 m) flog-flow light-projection screens. What the Displair has that the other lacks is the touch capability, which, when combined with the small size, serves as a novelty replacement for a touch computer screen.
(In addition to user-friendliness, the touch capability does show that the technology is safe and benign. Other "hovering image" technologies, such as one developed at UCLA, are very impressive, but are based on mirrors spinning at high speed -- not something you'd want to touch.)