3D, VR, And Immersive Tech: The Perfect Storm
Fewer than four years have passed since 3D Blu-ray technology was first made available. Before that, the only stereoscopic movies you could buy included a handful of anaglyph (red/blue) DVDs. And true 3D-capable televisions were not really available in the consumer space. Although it's true that the new media format didn't explode like some anticipated/hoped it would, at least 3D aficionados now have fairly mainstream access to hardware and content that most people didn't even dream of in 2007. That was the year I wrote my first stereoscopic 3D article, Wall-Sized 3D Displays: The Ultimate Gaming Room. In order to put that piece together, I used a 1024x768 DLP projector with an 85 Hz refresh rate. It was completely reliant on eDimensional's extremely buggy drivers to play games, and those were about all the setup could handle; there simply were no 3D movies to buy. Now, 3D Blu-rays discs are on the shelves at Wal-Mart and the Oculus Rift is nearing consumer availability.
Back in 2007, 3D was in the hands of hardcore fringe enthusiasts, and reliable information was very had to come by. My research always led me back to the forums at Meant To Be Seen (mtbs3d.com), an organization that claims to be the world's first stereoscopic 3D certification and advocacy group. MTBS was started and presided over by Neil Schneider, a gentleman who is tenaciously passionate and driven when it comes to immersive technology. In an indirect way, he had a hand in the Oculus Rift story. John Carmack (co-creator of the iconic Doom PC game franchise) first contacted Palmer Luckey (the Rift's young inventor) on the MTBS forums.
I contacted Neil by email once when I was researching an article, and was immediately impressed with his breadth of knowledge and willingness to share it. We keep in touch and occasionally discuss developments in 3D and virtual reality hardware. Neil is now the manager of immersive technology services at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and he gave me a standing invitation to drop by if I was ever in the neighborhood.
Was I interested in a personal tour of new cutting-edge immersive technologies such as the Oculus Rift, Epson's Moverio augmented-reality glasses, and the Virtual Reality Cave? Would I like to check out what students in the Game Development and Entrepreneurship program come up with? For a 3D geek like me, all of that sounded like a rare opportunity. I gladly took Neil up on his offer earlier this year during a business trip to Toronto.
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.
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.
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.....