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I've Seen the Future of Virtual Reality, and It Is Terrifying

September 21, 2012 | Telepresence Options
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By Toshi Nakamura

I've Seen the Future of Virtual Reality, and It Is TerrifyingExperience the big-screen in private. That's the sales pitch for head-mounted displays. One would think that the only real areas for technological advancement would be in the screen resolution and the actual weight of the device. Introducing the Prototype-SR (Substitutional Reality), a new take on the head-mounted display.

Based on Sony's HMZ personal 3D viewer head-mounted display, the Prototype-SR mixes real-time video with prerecorded video to create what Sony hopes is a unique new entertainment experience. The Prototype-SR is currently on display at the Tokyo Game Show 2012, and I had a chance for some hands-on time with the device in an interactive demo. This is a prototype, and there are currently no plans to launch it. Can you put a release date on the future?

The demo took place in a sterile white room with a chair, the Prototype-SR and a real female guide. The guide set up the device on my head and the demonstration began. She directed me to look left and right to show what I was looking at as a real-time image of the room was being fed to the display monitors via the camera on the front of the Prototype-SR. Then, I was shown a two minute movie trailer for Resident Evil: Retribution.

After the trailer, the screen returned to the video feed of the room where the guide proceeded with the demonstration. At this point, the lights in the room suddenly began to flicker, and the guide seemingly grew ill and collapsed. While I knew this portion was a pre-recorded sequence featuring the same guide, I was able to suspend my disbelief. The ability to move my head an look around made the whole thing all the more real. The guide then rose again as a zombie and lunged at me, causing me to jump. What can I say, it was a good scare. The display went black and I once again returns to a live feed of the room with the real guide.

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The prerecorded sequence of the zombie guide was filmed from 360 degrees which allows for 3D viewing from all angles and leads to a frighteningly real experience. In further demonstrations, the guide continued to show a sequence of mixtures of live and prerecorded images, all of which was visually fascinating to see (At one point, the guide reached out her hand for me to touch to show that she was really there). By blending both the live and prerecorded 3D images, the whole sequence was like a highly immersive AR game.


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