The Magic Window Into the Home

“We had people say afterwards that it was one of the best demos they had ever seen at one of these conferences.”

Russell Clark is clearly pleased, and justifiably so: the Georgia Tech computer scientist is recounting a successful presentation at the March 2013 GENI Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. The subject of the demo, the Magic Window telepresence app, has garnered much interest in the intervening weeks, interest Clark hopes can be translated into collaborations or sponsorships.

For twenty minutes at the GENI conference, Clark and his collaborators gave a demonstration of what it might feel like to look in on your home from the other side of the country. Standing on the plenary stage in Salt Lake, they used the Magic Window to peer into the AWARE Home in Atlanta, and employed gesture-based commands to turn lights off and on and operate the entertainment system – all in real-time.

“It was the first time we tried demonstrating it live with a projector,” says Clark. “So we had some logistics issues figuring out how to make the demo understandable to a large audience, so they could appreciate what was going on.” He adds that it was Georgia Tech researchers Brian Davidson (GT-RNOC) and Jeff Wilson (IMTC) from the Magic Window team who worked diligently to solve all the complex technical challenges of the presentation.

Obviously, the work on the Magic Window has required close integration with the AWARE Home's systems. Brian Jones, director of the AWARE Home research project, sees this collaboration as a precursor to future home-related systems. Such projects, he believes, help “integrate the holistic view of the home as an intelligent space,” and will spur development of adaptive systems for different domestic functions.

For Clark, this is the next stage of Magic Window, as a platform for controlling different systems – entertainment, security, utility - in the home. “It would be a home-automation focused interface you might use for your home entertainment, and home theater and control system – so we have to think of it as using the same technology and skinning it for different uses... it is the management hub for your home automation system.”

Another important result from the Magic Window development has been a deeper understanding of the potential of the GENI technology underlying it. It would obviously be useful in other scenarios, as Clark points out:

“[We use] GENI to address the scaling issues – how do we do these content augmentations on a large scale, like a conference call with an entire corporate sales team distributed all over the country, or an online course like a MOOC?” GENI, says Clark, is the key for Magic Window, and potentially, for any other application involving a large number of participants distributed over a large space.

“What's different about the Magic Window, for a video conferencing technology, is that we're turning over control of the experience to the viewer – the person watching has control over what they're seeing, what content they're seeing, and what perspective they're seeing it from.”

Read our previous article about the Magic Window app