Monday, March 28, 2016

Virtual Reality as of Today

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Stereograph Cards collection.

The interest in 3D viewing has been around a very long time. The above stereograph picture of a woman using a stereoscope is copyright 1901, but usage goes back to at least the 1850s.

The View-Master™, which my family had when I was a child, has been around since first introduced at the 1939 New York World's Fair. It even got interest from the U.S. Army as a training tool.

And let us not forget the above shown anaglyphic 3D glasses, which used color separation of a composite image to present two different images to your eyes. Many a movie goer has been thrilled to have spears, and other objects thrust at them using this primitive technology.

Of course, color separation has given way to a polarized 3D system in today's theatres. Full color is thus enjoyed, albeit at reduced resolution and intensity, by using the above shown linear polarized glasses, with one lens being vertically polarized and the other horizontally polarized.

As a further refinement, my home video system has an active shutter 3D system​, which uses the above battery powered glasses to open and close shutters alternately on each eye so that separate images can be displayed on each when properly synchronized to the display screen.

Which brings us to the latest and greatest for 2016, the Occulus Rift virtual reality headset shown above. This headset arrives in customer hands today (28 March, 2016) as the first of several different brands to ship this year and represents a 5 year effort since then 18 year-old founder Palmer Luckey hacked together a prototype in his parents garage in 2011. Crowd funded and eagerly awaited, it will be interesting to see how these work out in use by everyday users. While I'm sure we will someday look back and marvel at how crude these are, for now they represent the state-of-the-art in affordable (~$600) consumer ready virtual reality.

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