Increasingly popular pico projectors are now a crucial component in a unique new gaming technology.

Canadian developers unveiled Project Cobra at the recent Computer-Human Interface conference in Atlanta. It incorporates a tactile, portable gaming interface in which users physically bend and twist a touch-sensitive in reaction to images being projected on to it.

The men behind the technology, Zi Ye and Hammad Khalid from the Human Media Lab at Queen's University in Canada, said their development followed the focus that other developers had been having in moving away from "maximizing graphical power to create new, more natural methods of interaction for players."

The system comprises a pico projector mounted on the strap of a shoulder bag containing the laptop that runs the game, offering gamers both the freedom of a handheld device with the power of a larger unit.

The screen then consists of two plastic sheets that are flexible but sturdy enough not sag if held in one hand. Sandwiched between the sheets are three infrared LEDs, which interact with the projector to keep track of the board's position, four bend sensors and two pressure sensors.

Computer science experts predict that the technology of Project Cobra could have applications far beyond gaming, with controlling video, navigation through 3D landscapes and audio mixing all potential future uses for the interface.