Sunday, August 5, 2012

Thoughts about the Oculus Rift and other display tech 1.0

Today I made my $335 pledge toward the Oculus Rift KickStarter project and that's led to some interesting conversations on Google+. The following was originally intended as a reply to ? on the posts comments, but it got a bit long-winded so I'm blogging instead.

I've been searching for more tech details (about the Rift) like mad and so far I can't find a damn thing! :)  Someone on here said something that did get me thinking though and I have an idea of what they may have done to use such a low-res screen (relatively speaking) to get an amazing picture. I just put in my $335 pledge and I'm going to try and reach someone to confirm (with an NDA in place) because if I'm right, then I'd be happy to explain the approach if they'll let me. If I'm wrong, then I have another idea that they might be able to use to take this up another notch still :)  What I will say right now is that the reason 720p / 2 per eye doesn't sound like much, is because 720p (and every other display out there that sits on a table/desk/wall/etc... is built so that no matter where you look ON THE DISPLAY, you get an equally high-quality image and that's necessary because the display doesn't actually take up much of your entire FOV and it's not tired to head-tracking (unless you're using TrackIR or similar tech). If a system knows exactly where you're looking and the display takes up most of your FOV, then it only needs a lot of detail in a fairly small area and the remainder of the display can actually be quite low-res/low-quality. Eye tracking is one way of doing this that's been experimented with, but that's very complicated and expensive. You can follow me here on G+ to see what I find in the way of tech and I may even share my own ideas independently, but my G+ shares will just be links to my blogger site ( ) so I have more presentation control so you may want to just go subscribe there so you can get more immediate alerts you're less likely to miss. I don't blog often so you won't get spammed by alerts :)

Another cool display tech you might want to check out is a home-brew project using an approach that's well known in the $1m+ flight sim industry called collimated light displays. These guys seem to have figured out an approach that allows for the use of an off-the-shelf projector and less than $100 in materials to create one hell of a wide FOV display appropriate for flight/racing sims on the PC. Walk around of the DIY collimated display.They have quite a few other videos showing the setup and theory but what makes this display so amazing is that as you move around, the image appears to remain effectively the same just as it would if you were looking "out the window" of a vehicle. That's what makes these especially useful for simulators. Their build could EASILY use a DLP display with active-shutter glasses and you'd not only have that OTW effect, but stereoscopy as well and it would be mind blowing without an HMD. Depending on what I can do with the Rift SDK, this might be my next major project for use to replace my primary desktop monitors (24" 1200p, 30" 1600p, 24" 1200p).

It could also be a nice enhancement to a multi-mon desktop setup if you can afford a projector with seriously wide-res OR matrox display adapters that do edge blending and some cheaper projectors (could even use a bunch of really cheap ones turned vertical if you have the Matrox hardware). Example HERE (this isn't collimated though so if you move your head too much, you'll see distortion).

My hope for the Rift though is to see someone get a 3D desktop work space going for Windows (like Compiz-Fusion) and then add cameras to make AR possible then my "work-space" will be my entire environment. A project I've been evolving for no less than 10 years in my head. Basically, using compositing technology, imagine being able to place your windows anywhere in 3D space (though most likely perpendicular to virtual walls you setup which are aligned to the real walls in your space, or as normals to a virtual cylinder that exists around you. Then when you "focus" a window, it snaps to a position that will allow for the best possible 1:1 pixel mapping of the physical display so that text can be as sharp as possible. Anyway, that's just the tip of a VERY involved idea I have and should be another post (or 10) and by now many others have come up with very similar ideas.


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