V-Rtifacts

Head Mounted Displays

VR Helmets: the dinosaurs

The Cart Before The Horse, Once Again – Project Glass

Google has been tearing through the bandwidth over at the Patent Office in defense of Project Glass, April’s much touted announcement of Google’s entry into the world of augmented reality and head mounted displays. One especially clever patent covers their bases on the use of glasses nose-bridge as a power switch.

Trouble is: where’s the beef? ReadWriteWeb nicely summarizes just why Google stressed that their promo video was just a “concept”, not anything we should expect in the foreseeable future. A few well aimed snippets from their article:

What a disappointment! Google’s prototype heads-up display glasses do not have the Terminator-style graphics shown in the concept video. They just show a simple readout above the user’s line of sight for now. That’s no fun.

After the video came out, Google execs immediately started showing up at conferences and on talk shows wearing Google glasses. But they were vague about the actual capabilities of these prototypes. When Sebastian Thrun dared to demo the camera while live on the Charlie Rose show, the result was pretty harrowing.

Concept videos cross the line when the company can’t deliver the goods. That’s why it’s risky to make them. As writer John Gruber is fond of pointing out, that’s why Apple stopped making such videos. Apple learned its lesson. Now it ships the devices of the future before it ever shows them off, leaving its competitors looking like they’re trying too hard.

Anyway, read the article and decide for yourself…

You may also enjoy this “concept” video:

 

 

 

Sega VR – Mighty Barfin’ Power Rangers (we are the 40 percent)

Sega (all hail Sonic!): 1991 brought the announcement of Sega VR, a $200 headset for the Genesis console, a prototype finally shown at summer CES 1993, and consigned to the trash heap of VR in 1994, before any units shipped. Sega claimed that the helmet experience was just too realistic for young children to handle, but the real scoop from researchers showed that 40% of users suffered from cybersickness and headaches. It’s fair to say that Sega undoubtedly anticipated a sea of lawsuits; as one pundit in the industry put it: “It will be like the Pinto’s exploding gas tank.”

Perfectly capturing the annoying VR hype of the era is Alan Hunter’s (MTV) summer 1993 CES intro of Sega VR:

Money quote from a teen featured in the promo: “I thought I was going to have to wait till I was old… like 30, to get VR at home!” It’s now 2012, he’s closing in on 40, and still waiting.

Much more info can be found in Ken Horowitz’s 1994 review. Four games were produced especially for Sega VR, never to be released.

Here’s some sense of the much feared “realism” which provoked Sega to pull the plug on production:

Much to Sega’s credit, their VR fail was at least an original marketing effort, whereas later in the 1990’s, Nintendo’s Virtual Boy and Atari’s (Virtuality designed) Jaguar VR crashed and burned in much the same mode (although at far greater expense.)

Platypus Headsets?

The Science Channel interviews Jaron Lanier who shows off some wide field of view headsets from the late 80’s. Jaron feels like a platypus when wearing one of these JumboTrons. The narrator’s conclusion (and Jaron’s as well): The state of the art in VR hasn’t progressed too much further.

 
(A tip of the hat to Aphradonis over at mtbs3d.com for finding this little gem!)

 

Seeing the Eye in a New Light

There’s been an enormous resurgence of DIY HMDs in the VR hacker community recently, some quite impressive. Understanding how the eye works is the key to these inventions. I found a really instructive 70 year old nugget which gives HMD designers the real lowdown. All the way from 1941 to you….

If you find this video a little advanced (it really isn’t), check out part 1 of the same series:

Eyeborg – Seeing farther…

Rob Spence, had his eye replaced with a video camera after a shotgun accident. He then set out to make this incredible documentary about visual and limb prostheses. The concept of direct imaging to the brain and the incorporation of augmented reality has been much flailed over the past 30 years. Spence introduces us to several people who’ve actually had it done. He also engages the viewer in the ethical considerations; whether people will eventually choose to have their eyes and limbs removed and replaced with cyborg parts. Could certainly change the odds in your office NFL betting pool!

Low Cost VR For The Virtual Hacker

From 1993: “Now you can go to Radio Shack, buy what you need, and build it yourself.” Robert Suding and the Virtual Reality Special Report provide specific instructions for building a stereoscopic HMD for $435. Interestingly the optics and prisms are quite similar to the V-Rtifacts “Leep On The Cheap” design.


Read the plans in full…

Yea, though he has walked through the Valley of Silicon, he fears no evil. Jaron Lanier’s rebound…

“Inside Jaron Lanier is a precocious eight-year-old who got together with some friends and built a spaceship,” wrote Howard Rheingold in his 1991 book, Virtual Reality, the definitive history of VR to date. “Now he wants us all to take a ride in it.”


More from Burr Snider’s 1993 perspective in Wired….