IllumiShare, from Microsoft Research (also responsible for holodesks), is a system to allow two people to interact with various objects remotely. It gives cooperative activities like taking notes or creating documents a physicality: You’re not typing in Google Docs, you’re actually writing with ink and paper. Or playing cards with real cards, only your partner is on the other side of the world.

The IllumiShare is really just a cool implementation of a combined projector and camera. When two of them are communicating, each one records what it sees while simultaneously beaming that video to the other IllumiShare setup and projecting what it receives from its brother. Since it uses a regular camera, you can use physical objects like a pen and paper, or cards, or dice, as shown in the video below.

The drawback is that compared to a completely digital experience, you can only control the physical objects that are actually in front of you. So no, this doesn’t allow you to reach through a wrinkle in space-time to manipulate your friends’ cards. But it looks pretty seamless and probably wouldn’t even be all that expensive to make. Microsoft hasn’t implied any release date for it, though.

[via The Atlantic]