Tom's Hardware: We'd like to start our journey into the University of Ontario by interviewing Neil Schneider, the university's manger of immersive technology services. Neil is a longtime 3D and VR enthusiast who has some interesting insights about the industry.
Neil, we'd like to know how you became involved in immersive technology. When did it all begin for you?
Neil Schneider and familyNeil Schneider: Years ago I was in a slump as a result of a failed business. My wife-to-be asked me why I wasn't playing my video games anymore, and I explained that my computer was too out of date. When she told her family, they all chipped in to give me enough money to buy a new model. Wow! What a difference modern technology made. But I knew I could do better. So, I bought a GPU, then a sound card, then surround sound speakers; I bought more and more because I was hungry for my next gaming fix. Then, I purchased a pair of 3D glasses off of eBay. Out of everything I had, the 3D glasses really stood out and changed my whole gaming experience.
Unfortunately, shortly after the turn of the millenium, 3D software support was lousy. The required CRT monitors were no longer being sold, the drivers were no longer getting updated, the game developers couldn't care less because they were already making money hand over fist...it wasn't a good time for 3D.
I shared an idea on the Nvidia discussion forums: what if someone created a website and built a community that was big enough to demonstrate there is a demand for stereoscopic 3D gaming? Then the display makers would create 3D-ready displays, the game developers would release 3D-ready games, and gamers like me would be very happy. I knocked on a lot of doors until iZ3D (one of the pioneering stereoscopic 3D driver developers, no longer in business) emailed me saying they would back the initiative, and Meant to be Seen (MTBS) was born.
One of the projects MTBS brought to the industry is GameGrade3D, a consumer-driven effort to test and review games in a manner that holds up to public scrutiny. It was a proof of concept, but it showed that a 3D-ready certification could have a real meaning without infringing on artistic choices. It was later backed and endorsed by AMD and DDD. Nvidia couldn't officially acknowledge it for political reasons, but it was supportive in its own way.
I also founded the Stereoscopic 3D Gaming Alliance (S3DGA). After I spoke on a panel where an executive referred to gamers as being "under tables with wire cutters", I knew something had to be done. We've had tremendous success over the years with research and advocacy, getting big names attached, and we are expanding to new areas soon.
In addition, I helped start the iGO3D Initiative, a 3D gaming research effort. A lot of the available research in stereoscopic 3D gaming was either out of date or tied to 3D film, so there was a need to do something specifically for modern stereoscopic 3D video games. I helped found that alongside the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, S3DGA, several leading universities, and successful game developers. We raised over $635,000 of government and industry funding to make that happen, and I'm proud to have been part of it.
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