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.