World of Tanks

March 5, 2008
GDC 2008 - Vision of Premium 3D Goggles
 

By Paul Philleo

A legion of companies are attempting to take on augmented reality to enhance the interactive experience for gaming enthusiasts over the last few years, with haptics interfaces, control-via-mind devices, and of course, 3D or virtual large screen gaming goggles. So far, none of the adoption rates for those products that have made it to market have been very deep, but hardware companies keep stepping up to the plate with the “next big thing” in interfaces.

At the Game Developers Conference, there were several goggle systems shown off in the expo hall. However, at the Intel booth on the 3rd floor of the West Hall, there was a pre-production model of TDVisions’ TDVisor, demoed by Ethan Schur, the Director of Product Marketing for TDVision.

Currently, the hand-made prototypes are actually available for sale at $1,000, but the mass market pricing is expected to be in the $399 price range by year’s end. At that price point the TDVisor is still pricey from a gaming price range, but it’s a lot less expensive than what’s available now for what’s essentially an enthusiast-class addition to a home theatre system. Broad availability is tagged for later this year, in roughly 4-5 months. “Ideally we want to target as much of the consumer market as possible,” Schur stated.

The hardware will be launched in two flavors, a lower resolution 800x600 SVGA version and a high-res version capable of 720p projection, with both offering a 108 degree field of vision and a simulated six foot wide screen from a 10 foot distance. In Schur’s view, the advantages of the TDVisors offer higher resolution than competing visors and most accurately emulate human vision and depth perception.

I tried out the TDVisor unit on a simple game of 3D Pong on a PC. The game mechanics are fairly cut and dried, involving a Pong-like game set in a 3D boxy space; for the purpose of trying out the TDVisor, it was a simple but effective game to give it a try. The ski-goggle type body was a bit heavier than I’d have preferred but fit well due to adjustable elastic strap and eyepieces. The early version of the TDVisor had no audio capabilities built in yet but, according to Schur, would have them when launching commercially. The heart of the product is the visualizing system, which projected the 3D Pong game cleanly through the optics with no issues with depth perception, color fringing or other artifacts that I could perceive in the ten minutes or so that I test-drove the goggles.

“Our testing in the labs has shown there’s been no problems, no side effects, from long-term use,” Schur said about the TDVisor being used for lengthier periods of play, such as what an MMO game-player might require. This is principally due to the consistent and even supply of data via both the left and right channels, which by the company’s argument don’t compel the brain to adjust as rapidly to varying and out-of-sync data streams as would be required with more traditional 3D vision systems.

TDVision is offering an SDK, TDVirtualCam, to game developers looking to create optically 3D enabled games, presumably optimized for their goggles, which through the software libraries attempts to simulate human vision in 3D for game development. If the source is not coded ready for viewing in 3D, then the TDVisor goggles will display an image in 2D instead.

In the future, TDVision may consider a next-gen console version of the goggles, but for now their “focus is completely on making sure the PC version of the hardware is finished and polished right before we go consider anything else,” Schur said.

A look of apparent euphoria from a GDC attendee trying out the TDVisor

Aside from the 3D Pong game, a racing game to test drive with the TDVisor

 
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