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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The invisible desktop craze: A new art form?

Craig Crossman Knight Ridder

There’s a new craze going on in the world of desktop computing and it’s invisible. Actually it’s the desktop that’s invisible. Well actually you can see the desktop but then again, you can’t.

Here’s what’s actually going on with this highly creative, totally off-the-wall, visually impactful form of self-expression that in my humble opinion has to be one of the coolest artistic forms of self-expression I have ever seen displayed on a computer’s screen. And the best part? You can easily do this yourself in a few minutes. All you need to begin is a webcam or a digital camera. But let me warn you. This kind of thing can become addictive and you may find yourself hooked on a fascinating new endeavor.

So far, this eye-candy is being referred to as both an “Invisible Desktop” and a “Transparent Screen.” The latter I believe is a bit more accurate in its description of what you think you are seeing when you take a look at a computer with one of these being displayed as its desktop image. A computer’s desktop is the background image that you see behind every icon or open window on the screen. Depending on the operating system and computer you are using, you can change the default desktop via a software control panel or system preference. Operating systems typically come with a small library of abstract background or photographic images from which you can select. Once chosen, the image expands to fill your entire screen. Floating above the desktop are displayed the images of whatever else you may be doing.

Being able to customize your desktop is simply one of the many ways you can personalize a computer to fit your personality or mood. You can also import any image you like and make it your desktop. Many choose to display an image of a family member or pet on their desktop. Creating an invisible desktop is done via the ability to change the desktop image.

Here’s what you do to create your fist transparent screen. Place your camera directly behind the screen and take a picture of what is there. Then replace your current desktop image with the picture you just took and that’s it! So what’s the fuss all about? In this case, a picture truly is worth a large number of words. Try and envision what will happen when this is done. If you’ve placed the camera angle at just right position and you’ve adjusted the lighting to match the exact shading, what begins to happen is an illusion that causes the screen to blend into the actual physical background that the screen is blocking. In a way, you are literally camouflaging the screen to blend into whatever is behind it.

This is very spooky to watch and even more amazing that this actually works. But it does. With a little practice, you can make it seem as though your computer’s screen is completely transparent. The screen becomes a frame through which you can see. What’s even more strange is that anything displayed on the screen at the moment be it icons or open windows appear to be floating in mid-air. This is something you just have to see for yourself. It is truly amazing.

You’ll need to get some practice playing with camera angles and lighting. That’s a big part of the work and also the fun involved to make the illusion work properly. Once you get the hang of it, you are well on the way and only limited by your artistic creativity. You can see amazing examples of this artform at the following Web site that displays creative transparent screen examples sent in by enthusiasts: sets/180637

There you’ll see many examples. Everything from simple to complex images displaying multiple transparent screens showing partial images of other transparent screens will amaze you.

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