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Head-mounted displays


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#1 Bob Yarwood

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 08:31 AM

Has anyone heard of films made to be viewed with a head-mounted display with motion
sensors and computer control of the images presented to the viewer? The viewer would
appear to be inside the scene, with the action going on all round, rather than having it
projected onto a screen. I have had this idea for several years now, and it seems to me
that this will be the next big change in the film industry, similar to the introduction of
sound in the 1920s. It seems so obvious to me, and yet I have never heard or read
anything about it. I have written to many people to do with films but no-one has replied
yet.

I am not a cinematographer but I am a graduate physicist and control systems engineer, as
well as a lifelong science fiction fan, so perhaps I have developed the habit of looking
into the future more than most people. I think that once people got used to the idea
they would not want to go back to screen-projected films, any more than they want to go
back to silent films.

The first thing it would need is a camera with an all-round view - 360 degrees in the
horizontal plane and 180 degrees in the vertical plane. I don't expect there are any
yet, but considering that we can send pictures back from Mars, and correct the faults
in the Hubble telescope while it is in orbit, it should't present an insuperable difficulty!

I have actually seen a working model of this, but it was in a seaside amusement arcade.
I stepped onto a platform, put the helmet on, and I was in the most absurdly simple scene
you could imagine - just a boxing ring with ropes and corner posts, and that was all.
When I turned my head, sure enough the ropes and posts were all round me. When
I went back a few weeks later to find out where it came from it had been taken away.
Still, it showed that it can be done.
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#2 Chris Keth

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 08:54 PM

The problem with that is the difficulty of mass viewing. A projection theater has one piece of expensive equipment for many people. Your idea, while very cool and possessing lots of potential, would need 1 piece of expensive equipment for each person.

That alone will doom it to small venues and novelty acts like you saw.
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#3 Bob Yarwood

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 08:56 AM

The problem with that is the difficulty of mass viewing. A projection theater has one piece of expensive equipment for many people. Your idea, while very cool and possessing lots of potential, would need 1 piece of expensive equipment for each person.

That alone will doom it to small venues and novelty acts like you saw.


Yes, it would be expensive at first, as all new technologies are, but the cost would come down in time as the idea spread. After all, the computers we have today would have been astronomically expensive ten years ago if they could have been made at all. Anyway, I think the computers we have now, with the right programs, could take care of the software side. The expensive equipment would then consist of the head-mounted display with its motion sensors. These should be externally mounted at first for simplicity and cheapness, and later perhaps incorporated into the helmet.

This technology, which I have provisionally named "virtual-space", would start off quite crude and be refined as time went by. Look how radio started, with a few enthusiasts poking at a piece of crystal with a fine wire - a "cat's whisker" as it was called.

Also, I didn't mention computer games, which would provide another, and perhaps more popular, application. Instead of watching the action on a screen you could take part in the game in person, entering the dungeon or whatever and interacting with the characters as yourself. Considering how keen game players are now and how eager they are to get the latest hardware like Playstation, I think virtual-space games would be wildly popular (perhaps even too addictive!)

I have just written about this to the most obvious and influential person I can think of, George Lucas, but there is no guarantee that my letter will get right to him - it may will be binned by someone many levels down in his organisation!
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#4 Cougar Keegan

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 05:49 AM

Yes, it would be expensive at first, as all new technologies are, but the cost would come down in time as the idea spread. After all, the computers we have today would have been astronomically expensive ten years ago if they could have been made at all. Anyway, I think the computers we have now, with the right programs, could take care of the software side. The expensive equipment would then consist of the head-mounted display with its motion sensors. These should be externally mounted at first for simplicity and cheapness, and later perhaps incorporated into the helmet.

This technology, which I have provisionally named "virtual-space", would start off quite crude and be refined as time went by. Look how radio started, with a few enthusiasts poking at a piece of crystal with a fine wire - a "cat's whisker" as it was called.

Also, I didn't mention computer games, which would provide another, and perhaps more popular, application. Instead of watching the action on a screen you could take part in the game in person, entering the dungeon or whatever and interacting with the characters as yourself. Considering how keen game players are now and how eager they are to get the latest hardware like Playstation, I think virtual-space games would be wildly popular (perhaps even too addictive!)

I have just written about this to the most obvious and influential person I can think of, George Lucas, but there is no guarantee that my letter will get right to him - it may will be binned by someone many levels down in his organisation!


Nice work but unfortunately you have just re-invented "virtual reality." ;) It's already applied to video games and you can play a couple good examples of them at DisneyQuest in Orlando. Keep up the work though, maybe you will have a true breakthrough in time!
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#5 Bob Yarwood

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 04:22 PM

Nice work but unfortunately you have just re-invented "virtual reality." ;) It's already applied to video games and you can play a couple good examples of them at DisneyQuest in Orlando. Keep up the work though, maybe you will have a true breakthrough in time!


The term "Viritual Reality" seems to mean many different things to different people, which is why I deliberately avoided using it in this case. I have most often seen it used to describe computer-generated images that are meant to be as close to real life as possible, but still shown on a flat screen in the ordinary way. An example of this is pictures that estate agents have on their computers to show clients the inside of a house without having to visit it.

If there are a couple of examples of video games that are played using head-mounted displays in Orlando I am very glad to hear it, but as I said I have already seen one here (England). That does not alter the fact that neither video games nor movies of this kind are commonly known and available, nor even discussed in any technical magazine that I have seen. If you do come across any mention of them I would be grateful if you would let me know. My email is bob_yarwood@yahoo.co.uk
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#6 Bob Yarwood

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 04:48 PM

Continuing my "thesis" on virtual-space movies, I think they would make as much difference to movies as sound did in the late 1920s. If you could not see your actual surroundings, only what was in the movie, you would get a very powerful feeling that you were somewhere else completely - i.e. wherever the camera was which made the film. I like to think of the helmet as a "magic helmet" which transports the wearer instantly to another place. Although you would be sitting in your own living room, you could appear to be in a huge hall, or outside, or even floating in space outside the space station. Using the Google Earth images, you could be flying like Superman to anywhere on Earth across the actual landscape. As charts of Mars have already been prepared, including the heights of the terrain, you could be travelling around Mars before we have even been there!

My favourite idea is to have science fiction movies with computer-generated imagery made in virtual-space form. The best story to start with would be Arthur C. Clarke's "Rendezvous With Rama", in which a gigantic alien spaceship, several miles long and a mile in diameter, visits the Solar System and is boarded and explored by astronauts from Earth.

At the age of 73, I just hope I live to see this happen!
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Paralinx LLC

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The Slider

Glidecam

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