Microsoft has been working on ways to bridge the virtual world with the real for a while now and its research wing might have just unveiled its best attempt yet with Project Zanzibar.
Project Zanzibar is a smart flexible mat which senses touch, gestures, the user's location and the ability to communicate with objects. According to Microsoft, the Project Zanzibar mat combines capacitive sensing and NFC (Near Field Communication) to enable multi-touch gesture input to work alongside physical object manipulation and control. What this essentially allows is the ability to simply place objects on this mat and play games.
Microsoft in its video of Project Zanzibar also demonstrates a number of different game scenarios where the mat tracks the positioning and movement of objects using NFC. The company demonstrates what the platform is capable of in terms of basic games for learning, programming and augmented reality, but the technology is still in its early stages.
According to a report by ZDNet, Microsoft will likely demonstrate the smart mat at an event in Montreal, Canada soon, where we should get a better idea of what Project Zanzibar has on offer, but till then, a video is all we have of the mat.
In a blog post, Microsoft's research team behind the Zanzibar mat explained how their source of inspiration for the smart mat stemmed from a simple question: “We began with a simple thought... What if we could blur the divide between the physical and digital worlds? What if you could play with toys and cards and blocks while watching your actions come alive onscreen?”