Friday, July 15, 2011

Training using the zSight HMD and the Kinect

An excellent video showing how the Kinect can integrate with the zSight HMD to product a compelling and effective training scenario. Quoting the author of the video, David from 3DVia: "We made the choice to only use kinect to "watch" if the user is doing the correct motion he/she is supposed to be trained at: rotating the valve or walking. Engaging the body in the experience enables the trained person to take appropriate decision, based on a situation that is made as close as possible to the one he/she would face in an real emergency case The HMD also contributes to the presence of the virtual environment, stereo rendering have been disabled in the video."

Monday, July 4, 2011

3D and the iPhone

Last year, when Hasbro announced the My3D, a 3D device, I was intrigued: how could a US list price of $35 support the cost of a micro-display, optics, control electronics and a decent enclosure? The answer, of course, is that it doesn't. The device does not have its own display - it houses an iPhone with specialized applications that present 3D images in side-by-side format; it does not have a motion tracker - it uses the iPhone's. It does not have drive electronics - for the same reason.

When the My3D came on the market in April, I immediately went out and got one. After all, buying gadgets is one of the few perks of my job. I downloaded the apps from iTunes, installed them on an iPhone 3GS and put the device to a harsh, un-scientific but brutally accurate evaluation: the teenager test. This is a test where I give a device to a bunch of teenagers and tell them "it's all ready to use; it's free of charge for you; just use it and tell me what you think". As expected, the first five minutes of the test were filled with 'wow - this is cool!' but from the sixth minute till this date, the My3D has never been used again. In contrast, the Motorola Xoom tablet, in spite of surprisingly poor video playback performance, has passed the teenager test with flying colors and is constantly being used.

Before discussing the upside, here are some of the things I don't like about the My3D:

  • The iPhone 3GS screen, when used in side-by-side mode and magnified through the My3D eyepieces, is nothing to write home about. The resolution is low and the fill ratio of the pixels 
  • When using the My3D, your hands need to hold the device.
  • User interface is clumsy - holes are provided to insert the thumbs through the My3D enclosure and touch the iPhone screen

But there is an upside. The concept of using the phone (or tablet) to generate the graphics, provide the communication link, app store and perhaps even the motion sensor, is certainly valid. With phone and tablet CPUs becoming ever stronger (the Xoom has a dual-core NVIDIA Tegra) and with goggles supporting side-by-side 3D, you can get pretty good 3D experience without a PC.