Microsoft's Google Glass rival

@CNNMoneyTech July 31, 2012: 3:28 PM ET

REDMOND, Wash. (CNNMoney) -- This is part 2 of CNNMoney's series looking inside Microsoft's research lab.

If gadgets like Google's augmented-reality glasses catch on, we might all soon be wearing screens. Microsoft has a very different take than Google, though, on what that technology should do.

At its research lab in Redmond, Wash., Microsoft is working on a camera and projector combination similar to Google's cyborg-like "Glass" glasses.

Here's one crucial difference between Google's approach and Microsoft's: Google thinks the display should face your eyes, and Microsoft thinks the display should project outwards.

Microsoft's project, which doesn't have a snazzy name like Google's, is a wearable projector that utilizes technology similar to the Kinect to shine a multitouch display pretty much anywhere. The company simply calls it the "Wearable Multitouch Projector."

What that actually means is that a wall, a notepad or your hand can become a touchscreen in an instant.

Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) hasn't figured out the use case for the technology, but one idea it's playing with is that someday soon, you'll be able to access everything in your smartphone while it's still in your pocket.

Want to make a quick call, look at a map, or change the song you're listening to? Just hold out your hand.

Currently, the demo device is an ugly, pirate-parrot-like setup. A small laptop in a holster is connected to a tiny projector and camera mounted on a shoulder strap. Microsoft's engineers wrapped the cords in blue luminescent tubing to make it look like the wearer is about to go bust some ghosts.

It's certainly not polished, but Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) recently revealed the earliest iterations of its Project Glass hardware, and it's not like that looked so cool either.

Microsoft thinks that the underlying technology will improve and miniaturize in the next several years, allowing the projector and camera to essentially be hidden from view. It could surface on a pair of glasses like Google Glass, or perhaps an alternate device like a pendant. To top of page

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