From the annals of “wouldn't it be cool if you could…” comes SideBySide. It’s a projection system that allows mobile devices to put an image on a wall that can interact with another image projected by another device.

So, if two people wanted to play a version of, say, a boxing game, they could project the images onto the wall from two separate phones, without needing to hook up to a single computer or gaming system. No other equipment is needed.

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The technology, invented by a team at Disney Research in Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University, works is by projecting both visible light and infrared. The devices the researchers built have a camera that monitors the projected images, a sensor that measures range and an inertial measurement unit similar to the accelerometer components in tablets and many smart phones.

It’s the infrared channel that makes the difference. The infrared beams project markets that are visible to the system but not the users (being infrared). That tells the device when the images overlap or touch, and that information is sent between the devices.

Gaming is the most obvious use for this, but interacting to explore 3-D environments with other people is also a real possibility, or even exchanging files and updating renderings.

But to see how people are likely to use it Disney Research has a video here.

Image: Carnegie Mellon University/ (c) Disney