I’ve argued before that the most significant near term tech will be the integration of 3D displays, head tracking, cheap screens and high bandwidth communication.
My contention is that it will change what it means to “be somewhere” and will usher in a revolution as significant as the first telecom and more significant than 2D internet.
Most of my readers by now have probably seen some of the modern high-def 3D movies. There is good chance as well, that you came away underwhelmed.
I don’t want to go far off on a tangent on brain science, but the main issue here is that stereoscopic vision is only a minor part of how your brain constructs its 3D-ish model of what you are seeing.
If you put your hand over one eye you can see that the world is a bit flatter and you can mistakenly think certain things are closer or further than they are but its not like any sense of depth is destroyed.
Lots of things are important, light, shadow, knowledge of the size and likely position of things, etc. However, one of the principle tricks your brain exploits is monocular parallax. That is, not two different images in two eyes, but different images as the head moves. This makes head tracking a must for true 3D.
Here is an example of the difference head tracking makes
What’s also equally important though are really big screens. I know that lots of people think glasses based Virtual Reality will come first, but my sense right now is that wall sized screens are what’s going to do it. There are lots of reasons for that, mostly focusing around how the end user is going to view the tech.
I think entering an infinite room will make it easier to foster a suspension of disbelief for the business user than putting on a visor or glasses.
Screen size matters because the more integrated the virtual perspective is into the rest of your visual frame the more real it will seem. Here is an example of the power of integrating a virtual projection using chalk.
This exploits neither stereoscopic vision or monocular parallax. Its simply brilliantly integrated into the rest of the visual frame. The brain assumes that its part of the frame and uses the perspective to generate a 3D image.
So, we image that we walk into a room where one wall is a screen. The edge of the screen’s image blends perfectly into the edges of the adjacent walls, the ceiling and the floor. The image inside the screen moves as you move around the room and the image is displayed stereoscopically.
It will look like this room opens up to where ever you want. Even more importantly we can put someone on “your” side of the screen. In other words you don’t have to be looking at them through what seems like a mirror. They can be projected to be standing in the center of your room.
They will disappear if you walk to far around them but in the type of interaction that goes on normally between two people standing or sitting and talking they should appear to be right there.
Of course, the more screens the more complete the illusion will be and in a room of all screens will appear to be exactly like somewhere else accept that if walk to far you will hit the screen.
This is a big deal because interacting with other people is the heart of our economy and our civilization. Currently our technology makes verbal communication cheap and easy. However, much of communication is non-verbal.
For that reason people spend enormous amounts of resources to be in the same room together. And, even still you can’t be in the same room with anyone in the world at any time because of sheer time limits on even jet travel.
Infinite rooms get us past that. As costs fall any two people can be in the same room at any time. Indeed, though we need an infinite room for each person in theory we can put in any number of people in the same virtual room.