A mounted laptop, a high-resolution projector, a 5-m concave fabric screen with a mirror, a six-degrees-of-freedom (6DOF) tracking system with controllers and handheld tablets. These are the ingredients comprising the Hyve-3D, a system from researchers at the Univ. of Montreal aiming to bring a 3-D cursor to the virtual reality world.

“Our new technology challenges the notion of what a cursor is and does,” said Tomás Dorta, of the university’s School of Design. “The cursor becomes a drawing and controlling plane.”

Videos showing the system in action capture designers skimming through virtual buildings, designing the feng shui of a room with tables and chairs. Using the tablet, they explore the virtual space with their fingers, orbiting and navigating an immersive setting. Further, the system allows 3-D sketching and 3-D model import and export.

“3-D cursors are intuitively manipulated by multi-touch handheld tablets that are tracked in 6DOF,” according to an abstract from a presentation given at SIGGRAPH 2015. “The system also features a lightweight immersive 3-D rendering technique that runs on a single laptop, allowing texture and lighting effect on 3-D geometry.”

Selection is achieved by sweeping the cursor through existing objects and sketches. Once selected, users can move the object, or sketch. “The tablets can also be used as 3-D trackpads to navigate, orbit and tilt around the scene with tablet movements and multi-touch gestures based on orientation,” according to researchers. 

For the manipulation of objects, users employ gestures and movements, such as pinching and orientation, Dorta said.

Additionally, users can collaborate remotely by using their tablets as their own personal windows to the virtual environment, thus making a personal computer a collaborative work environment, according to the researchers.

The system requires neither the projector, nor the fabric screen to operate. Non-immersive operations can be achieved simply using a laptop or computer screen. 

Dorta said since the system doesn’t rely on tracking the users’ movement, eventually devices, such as smartphones or watches, could be used as cursors.

“Beyond its utility for sketching, we believe the 3-D cursor has applications in a wide range of fields, such as architectural design, medical imaging and, of course, computer games,” he said. “This isn’t a gimmicky rebirth of the cursor, it’s about rethinking how humans interact with computers as part of the creative process.”

The university’s technology commercialization unit, Univalor, is supporting the market launch of the system.


The highly-anticipated educational tracks for the 2015 R&D 100 Awards & Technology Conference feature 28 sessions, plus keynote speakers Dean Kamen and Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason.  Learn more.