3D, Virtual Reality, And Immersive Technology At The U Of OIT

Neil Schneider Gets His Start In 3D

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 family

Neil 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 My wife-to-be asked me why I wasn't playing my video games anymore, and I explained that my computer was too out of date.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.

  • xkm1948
    Hopefully the development of neuroscience will help sending signals directly to one's cortex without being processed by vision system. It is already doable in auditory system, although it is still indirectly stimulus of cortex. With a better understanding of cortex mapping, we may finally be able to get signals directly into brain without all the sensory organs!
  • clonazepam
    baby steps... baby steps. I dont see how that's possible without destroying healthy brain tissue during the learning process, so it'll never happen. Maybe some lab rats might get to enjoy some corridor run-throughs from the latest ID software, Quake 37 or something, but that's about it.

    I like the idea of several companies coming together to build a market to share with each other. That'd be nice. I've got a 3D Vision ready monitor and glasses. I messed around with it some when I first got it, but the quality of the experience from one game to the next was anything but consistent. Longer play sessions were interrupted by having to recharge the glasses too.

    I'm still hopeful that we get there someday. It's nice to know there's a group of people out there to decide where "there" is, and help define it as we move toward it.
  • etaxdoa
    what do I do with my vuzix 1200 wrap once Rift hits retail?
  • piklar
    Bunch o Chickmagnets.... things will get interesting when Occy R goes retail , cant help but think they will be hard pressed to keep up with demand "how could you NOT want one?" exciting times ahead..
  • bystander
    Hopefully the development of neuroscience will help sending signals directly to one's cortex without being processed by vision system. It is already doable in auditory system, although it is still indirectly stimulus of cortex. With a better understanding of cortex mapping, we may finally be able to get signals directly into brain without all the sensory organs!
    While that may be interesting, and very useful for the blind, part of the experience we have with 3D is processing it in the same manner we do in real life. Through our eyes.

    I am a big fan of 3D Vision myself. I really wish all the poor versions of 3D never existed, so people would stop calling it bad or a gimmick, because in the right games, it is truly awesome. 3D Vision has a great mod community that fixes a lot of games too, using the Helix mod, for those into 3D, it is a must to use their mods.
  • sebkow
    we had a blast having you at our school
  • sebkow
    Though it is UOIT and not U of OIT :)
  • bnot
    "Back in 2007, 3D was in the hands of hardcore fringe enthusiasts, and reliable information was very had to come by." ?


    Virtuality is a line of virtual reality gaming machines produced by Virtuality Group, and found in video arcades in the early 1990s. The machines deliver real time (less than 50ms lag) gaming via a stereoscopic visor, joysticks, and networked units for multi-player gaming.
    Initially introduced in 1991, the systems were developed for industry, where the first two networked systems were sold to British Telecom Research Laboratories to experiment with networked telepresence applications. Many other systems were sold to corporations including Ford, IBM, Mitsubishi and Olin. Professional virtual reality systems included the launch of the Ford Galaxy in virtual reality and a virtual trading floor for the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (LIFFE). However, the users' thrill of talking and mutually interacting with each other as virtual characters refocused the company's direction.....


  • Shankovich
    Wat UOIT is doing this stuff? LOL wow I should go visit. When I was applying to university 4 years ago they were offering insane entering scholarships because they were so new, $8000 a year if you had an average above 90%. Glad to see they're doing so well!
  • Verrin
    I went to UOIT for nuclear science. It's a neato school, the high costs of tuition is because you're renting a laptop with expensive software suites on it (cost is more for the software than the hardware). I sort of cringed everytime the author said "U of OIT". No one calls it thaaaaaat. It's UOIT.