Hong Kong: A robotic cook, a colouring book that comes to virtual life and movies that read your mind are some of the innovations on show at a cutting-edge computer technology exhibition in Hong Kong this week.
      
The first Asian edition of the SIGGRAPH expo of computer graphics, interactive technology and digital media brings together developers, distributors and resellers from around the world.
      
But while most of the conference is about business, some of the most interesting - and just plain bizarre - gadgets are not for sale.
      
The "emerging technologies" hall is where the real boffins from universities and research laboratories strut their stuff with prototypes fresh off the drawing board, in the name of science rather than profit.
      
Mark Billinghurst, director of the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, said the research was breaking down the physical and mental barriers between humans and computers.
      
"What the emerging technologies show is how the technology can be used in different playful and artistic ways," he said as the three-day expo in Hong Kong's convention center opened on Tuesday.
      
"We're entering an era now of, I guess you would call it invisible computing, where I can interact with the real world like I normally would and the computer monitors what I'm doing and reacts automatically.
      
"No longer do we have this separation between the user and the computer like we had 20 or 30 years ago."
      
His colleagues' contribution to the exhibition includes a system that instantly turns pages from a child's coloring book into three-dimensional computer animation.
      
"That's really fun for children because they can easily color and then they can see their coloring image come to life," Billinghurst said.
      
Similar "augmented reality" technology is already common in everyday life, from Nintendo's Wii game console to fighter pilots' heads-up displays.
      
Unlike virtual reality, which aims to replace the real world with a digital one, augmented reality seeks to enhance reality by seamlessly mixing it with computer-generated information and technology.
      
One of the simplest new prototypes on display at SIGGRAPH is a vibrating phone that allows users to tickle each other through the touch screen.
      
"That's really fun because normally when you play with your friends at a remote distance you can't touch them or feel them, but with this you can have that physical contact," Billinghurst said.

(Agencies)