Receptionists beware -- Haruka from Japan wants your job. She's cheap, doesn't get tired and could never be accused of being two-dimensional.
Haruka is the name of a virtual receptionist developed by Japan's Pioneer that might soon be the first real-world application of an imaging technology that achieves the illusion of 3D without the need for any special glasses.
The company is showing displays at this week's Ceatec Japan 2005 exhibition that, when viewed from more-or-less straight ahead, show images that appear to be three-dimensional and several centimeters in front of the actual panel. Haruka, who's only a few centimeters high, is actually on a screen inside the small box that encases the technology but she appears to be standing behind a miniature reception desk that is built into the front of the box.
The same box has a number of sensors built-in, including forward pointing ones to detect when a person approaches and several behind the desk to detect any hand movement behind the desk -- try to give Haruka a poke and she'll duck and scold you for taking a swipe at her!
Pioneer wouldn't reveal many details about the display system itself for fear of tipping off competitors on how it's achieved this optical trick but it did explain the basic construction. It consists of a conventional LCD (liquid crystal display) panel with a special lens in front that's responsible for the 3D effect. The lens is manufactured by a Pioneer subsidiary and no other details were available.
Pioneer hopes to put Haruka on the market soon as a replacement for the solitary telephone that often sits in the entrance hall of companies that have no receptionist. The company wouldn't reveal the price or precise commercialization plans.