Beverly Harrison's kitchen countertop is a lot smarter than yours. Place a steak and a green pepper on it, and the surface lights up with a recipe that integrates both ingredients. Don't like the kitchen's suggestion? Sweep it over the edge of the counter as if the recipe were a pile of potato peelings.
Harrison, a researcher for Intel, designed the setup because she thinks there's a better way to interact with computers than simply "logging into the box," as she characterizes the current state of affairs.
The kitchen array consists of a camera suspended above the counter. It sends images to a small, out-of-sight computer that recognizes certain objects and hand gestures. When it spots a food, a palm-sized projector beams useful data—such as cooking instructions—onto the counter. The system is an attempt to design behind-the-scenes computers that bridge "this big disconnect between living in the virtual world and living in the physical world," she says. Harrison's group recently finished a new version of the setup that animates scenes around Lego sets.
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