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Virtual reality that doesn't suck: Getting inside Half-Life 2

March 14, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
ipad_graphics_card.jpgForth Dimension's display technology packs all the pixels of a new iPad into a display less than an inch across, diagonally

March 13, 2012 by Kyle Orland via
-- For decades now, the futuristic dream interface for video games has been some sort of head-mounted display (HMD) that removes the world around you and projects an all-encompassing, head-tracked 3D environment across your entire field of vision. But this dream has been largely dead in the water since the mid-'90s, when everyone from Nintendo and Sega to Atari was prototyping or releasing ill-thought-out Virtual Reality headsets, even though the technology of the time was far from capable of fulfilling the VR promise.

Now, we may be finally be reaching the point where the display technology is finally catching up to our collective virtual reality dreams. At least that's the impression I walked away with after a state-of-the-art HMD slipped me into the world of Half-Life 2 at a Game Developers Conference demo last week.

The demonstration was put on by Forth Dimension Displays, a component maker that has managed to squeeze a functional, commercially viable 1080p monitor into a display area that measures a little less than an inch across diagonally (the company has also recently prototyped a similarly sized screen at QXGA resolutions of 2048x1536--the same pixel count as the new iPad squeezed onto a fraction of the size). By putting one of these HD displays a few inches in front of each eye, you can create an all-encompassing 3D effect that covers a roughly 100 degree field of vision in front of you (Forth Dimension also makes wider displays that can extend that vision field even further).

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