A new interactive 3-D display developed by Californian startup Infinite Z can track hand and eye movements in real time to let users manipulate virtual objects in three dimensions in a highly intuitive way. The zSpace display could bring a new level of realism to computer-aided design, virtual reality simulations, and even gaming.
There’s no doubt that 3D displays have brought a level of interactivity and sense of immersion that isn’t available with 2D. And yet, be it on a small TV or on the big screen, the illusion of depth is far from being entirely convincing. One of the reasons behind this is that traditional 3D displays can simulate binocular parallax – the slight difference in perspective that we witness from each eye – but not motion parallax – the depth cue by which we get a different point of view whenever we move our head with respect to an object.
Infinite Z’s display addresses this issue by embedding infrared markers into its companion glasses. The markers allow the position of the viewer’s head to be tracked and the three-dimensional image is adjusted accordingly, in real time. The result is when wearing the glasses, the viewer is presented with a much more intuitive experience in which virtual objects can be viewed from different perspectives as their point of view changes.
But this isn’t all: besides being aware of the position of the viewer’s eyes, the display also tracks the position of a stylus that can be used to manipulate the virtual objects in three dimensions, in a way that feels more natural.
The technology, which the company calls “Virtual Holographic 3-D,” could become a hit in computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM), where it could lead to a much more intuitive way of quickly prototyping and tweaking new designs.
Should costs decrease – as they likely will – it is also not inconceivable that either the technology or one much like it could affirm itself as the new gold standard for virtual reality, immersive computer gaming and, perhaps, even provide elements for a much more intuitive and immersive user interface.
With a not-so-modest price tag of US$3,995, this technology may not become mainstream for some time yet. If you’re a software developer who would like to create software that works with the display, however, the good news is that you can get your hands on one for considerably less – just $1,500.