Friday, May 16, 2008

The Alienware curved monitor and a curved HMD

Earlier this year, Alienware (now part of Dell), demonstrated a high-resolution, panoramic monitor. The 'Curved monitor' blends together four DLP projectors to create a wide display that is over 3 ft wide and has 2880x900 pixel resolution. You can read the Gizmodo review of this monitor, and see some videos at here

The process of tiling together multiple displays to achieve a curved, panoramic, high-resolution product is exactly what my company does to generate a curved, panoramic, high-resolution head-mounted display. The multiple displays are positioned so that they approximate a sphere around the eye, for a 'surround video' experience. Resolution is similar or higher than the curved monitor.

The decision whether to use a curved panoramic HMD or a curved panoramic monitor
is a bit like comparing a car to a plane: there are uses where one is better than the other, with some area of overlap. If you need many people to see the image at once, a monitor is better. If you are not inclined to wear anything on the head, the monitor is better. However, if you want stereo images, if you need portability, or if you want 360 degree immersion (image changes when you move your head), the HMD is your choice.

Some of the things I'm curious regarding the curved monitor:
- Does it require special video output modes, or can it accept stadnard display resolutions?
- How many video inputs does it require?
- How good is the tiling/stitching between the displays? In the Gizmodo video you can clearly see the seams between the projectors. Is there a way to achieve a seamless image?
- From a manufacturing standpoint, how does Alienware perfectly align the DLP projectors to achieve pixel-by-pixel matching? Does this alignment change over time?
- How good is the projector-to-projector color matching?

It's great to see tiled displays hit high-end consumer applications. I'm looking forward to trying a curved monitor one day soon and comparing it - with the same application - to a curved HMD