For years, therapists would attempt to treat smokers and alcoholics using real-life triggers. Let addicts see a lighter or an empty bottle, or even a photo of something smoking or drinking related, to trigger cravings, then teach them coping strategies. It was limited because patients could tell they were in a lab and their new found coping skills were not always transferrable to the real world. Enter Virtual Reality:
The theory being that the immersive VR world better approximates the real world, allowing better skills transference and allowing researchers to easily AB test different scenarios. A pilot program at Duke run by assistant professor Zach Rosenthal with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Department of Defense has already run about 90 people through this VR rehab trial. No formal conclusions have been reached, but preliminary data suggests effectiveness. More reading here.
Professional wide field of view Virtual Reality optics for less than the price of a couple of double lattes! A while back I demonstrated a design for Leep On The Cheap, a proof of concept for wide field of view optics on 3″ to 4″ display panels. Trouble was… there was quite a bit of distortion and chromatic aberration. However, it sparked quite a bit of thought and development in the VR DIY community. They’re the ones doing all the heavy lifting.
So… it’s time to come back with another optical design for wide field of view VR, but this time the optical qualities are first rate and remarkably inexpensive. Of course there are a new set of trade-offs: field of view is limited to about 65 deg. (not bad, but not totally immersive), and I rely on somewhat smaller display panels, about 1″ to 1.5″ diagonal. This is roughly the same as the: Nvision Datavisor LCD, Visette Pro, and Virtual Research VR4/V6/V8.
Google has been tearing through the bandwidth over at the Patent Office in defense of Project Glass, April’s much touted announcement of Google’s entry into the world of augmented reality and head mounted displays. One especially clever patent covers their bases on the use of glasses nose-bridge as a power switch.
Trouble is: where’s the beef? ReadWriteWeb nicely summarizes just why Google stressed that their promo video was just a “concept”, not anything we should expect in the foreseeable future. A few well aimed snippets from their article:
What a disappointment! Google’s prototype heads-up display glasses do not have the Terminator-style graphics shown in the concept video. They just show a simple readout above the user’s line of sight for now. That’s no fun.
After the video came out, Google execs immediately started showing up at conferences and on talk shows wearing Google glasses. But they were vague about the actual capabilities of these prototypes. When Sebastian Thrun dared to demo the camera while live on the Charlie Rose show, the result was pretty harrowing.
Sega (all hail Sonic!): 1991 brought the announcement of Sega VR, a $200 headset for the Genesis console, a prototype finally shown at summer CES 1993, and consigned to the trash heap of VR in 1994, before any units shipped. Sega claimed that the helmet experience was just too realistic for young children to handle, but the real scoop from researchers showed that 40% of users suffered from cybersickness and headaches. It’s fair to say that Sega undoubtedly anticipated a sea of lawsuits; as one pundit in the industry put it: “It will be like the Pinto’s exploding gas tank.”
Perfectly capturing the annoying VR hype of the era is Alan Hunter’s (MTV) summer 1993 CES intro of Sega VR:
Money quote from a teen featured in the promo: “I thought I was going to have to wait till I was old… like 30, to get VR at home!” It’s now 2012, he’s closing in on 40, and still waiting.
Much more info can be found in Ken Horowitz’s 1994 review. Four games were produced especially for Sega VR, never to be released.
Here’s some sense of the much feared “realism” which provoked Sega to pull the plug on production:
While the Omni article portrays Lanier as
“…a man of vision, enthusiasm, and purpose, if a bit of an eccentric: “The Pied Piper of a growing technological cult, Lanier has many of the trappings of a young rock star: the nocturnal activity, attention-getting hair, incessant demands on his time.”
You Are Not A Gadget has the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction - techno-reactionary. As one reviewer puts it:
“Jaron Lanier is really, really bothered by a laundry list of standard arch-conservative nemeses (Marxism! today’s kids! filesharing! the breakdown of the social contract! foreigners stealing our jobs!) as well as a basket of useful-yet-imperfect modern technologies (Wikipedia! Blogs! MIDI! Linux!) He is aware of a sinister cabal of cybernetic totalists who are hard at work on a machine to xerox his brain and force him to use Facebook to meet girls.