Now here's a gadget you'll definitely want for Christmas: a collapsible input device for direct 3D manipulation called Beyond.
The "pen"--in conjunction with an interactive surface--allows the user to virtually draw 3D objects--without the need for special glasses--by pushing it downwards into the virtual environment. The tool actually collapses while the table recreates it digitally under the glossy "surface," giving the illusion that it has moved down into the virtual space.
Developed by Jinha Lee and Hiroshi Ishii of the MIT Media Lab, the pen comprise of a Bluetooth communicator, a MicroController (Arduino), IR reflective tags, a vibration motor, and a battery. An infrared position tracking system tracks the pen as it moves across the table, and a camera is used to track the user's face so that it can adjust the angle of the 3D effect.
Additionally, Beyond also incorporates gestural input technologies. While the user directly manipulates 3D media with the pen tool, he/she can define lines, curves, squares, and ellipses, and extrude or rotate surfaces using pre-defined gestures using the gloved hand.
The obvious drawback to this method of 3D creation is that the effect only works from one set angle defined by the camera. This would indicate that a group of people huddled around the table wouldn't receive the same 3D illustration--it may be a mere group of lines for many viewers rather than a virtual object.
Check out the video found here and you'll see what we mean. Still, it's a novel idea and would be a handy tool both in the business environment and at home.