Thursday, June 07, 2012

Hack a Day - Where is my *%$#! virtual reality display?

The video is well worth watching.  John Carmack talks about latency issues in the display systems which is quite interesting and would effect anything interactive including regular gaming.

It's also one of the reasons I was driving the LCD display directly rather the going through a higher level input like VGA or VGA conversion to NTSC then to the LCD each step adds buffering and latency.

For years I’ve been asking, loudly and frequently, where’s my F*&#$%ing virtual reality?  I realize that many of us, depending on what influenced our dreams of VR will have different definitions, so let me elaborate. When I was a kid, I played Dactyl Nightmare at the Union station in St. Louis. You stepped inside this “stage”, donned a massive clunky headache inducing HMD, and brandished a floating joystick of doom to challenge other players and a flying Pterodactyl.  I was awe struck. My 12 year old brain decided that this was the future.
Fast forward 20 years and the thought of VR is relegated to niche builds in peoples homes. Graphics hardware has progressed considerably, with games that look absolutely breathtaking becoming the norm. When you sit down to play an FPS style game at a PC and move the mouse around, it seems that it would only be a tiny step to replace that with some nice head tracking. I’ve actually seen people just tape gyro mice to their head to achieve their goal. I’ve seen people strap entire monitors to their head too!  I’ve always wondered why there isn’t a better commercial solution though. Are there really so few of us that want this?
Now, with 3d movies seeming to take hold, and 3d televisions appearing in peoples homes, I am reminded again of the grandeur that a proper hmd could supply. My brother has a 3d television and tossed in some boxing game for the PS3 that is 3d. It was amusing, but not really immersive. Don’t get me started on the inaccuracy of those stupid motion controllers I had to use either. The Kinect is a big move forward in terms of how to track body movements, I’ve seen that added to the mix in peoples homes as well. Frankly, I’d settle for a decent HMD.
As it turns out, [John Carmack] is also on the quest for VR. He was at E3, talking about a new headset kit being built by PalmerTech called Oculus Rift that blows anything else out there away in terms of resolution, response, and cost. This kit will be DIY style and supposedly cost around $500, though you still have to add tracking. The kit looks pretty cool, but what is cooler is that he describes what is really holding most progress back. Apparently, it is the latency involved with the entire loop of motion->computer->display.
Are you listening to this [Jeri Ellsworth]? You paying attention [Jeff Keyser]? Valve needs to make me an HMD, even if I’m the only one on the planet that will enjoy it. Just think of it as a hat.

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