zSpace could change the way people play games say Infinite Z

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Infinite Z’s zSpace – a virtual holographic display, is gaining a lot of attention from various industries. It ticks many of the boxes required to generate a compelling 3D effect and the company believes the underlying technology can deliver the next level of immersive 3D gaming experiences.

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zSpace is a large tablet looking device which features a 24” stereoscopic display.  Users can interact with on-screen elements using a stylus, moving objects around the screen plane but most uniquely, pushing and pulling objects in and out of the screen.

Two infra-red tracking sensors registers the position of the viewer’s head, as they follow two sensors incorporated onto the lightweight polarised lenses. Being lightweight, with a minimal frame, it is not long before you forget your are wearing the specs and, unlike consumer passive 3D televisions, there is no resolution loss as the display delivers full HD to each eye. With no flicker, accurate tracking and an incredibly responsive stylus, the experience of interacting with 3D objects is a genuine “has to be seen to be believed” moment. You can literally pick an object out of the screen, hold it close to your face, and look around it. It is as if the screen plane disappears entirely.

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It does not require a lot of imagination to understand the huge potential of zSpace, either as it is, or by incorporating the same technology into other devices.  The auto/aerospace, architecture, engineering and construction industries are all on the radar for Infinite Z, the private venture backed company that designed zSpace. Healthcare is one of the most obvious, as trainee surgeons can explore various anatomical models, peeling layers back to get a greater understanding of what they are looking at. Product design reviews, piping and routing, building walkthroughs and virtual labs in education are also set to benefit but gaming, especially ‘serious gaming’, could reach a new level of engagement with zSpace and a recent collaboration with Unity, will only exploit this market further.

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The system works with a regular PC (with a decent GPU) which requires the  zSpaceSystem installer, which contains all the zSpace firmware, tracking software, etc and the zSpace SDK so a developer can run zSpace apps such as zSpace Experience or AngryBots and plugins for software such as Autodesk Maya, Showcase Professional and Autodesk Alias have already been written.

 Exclusive interview 

3D Focus: What will your recent partnership with Unity mean for zSpace?

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Infinite Z: Game developers face new challenges developing gaming environments that are highly realistic, large and continuously changing.  zSpace enables artists to develop better content faster and create things they haven’t even thought of before. It enables users to experiment with a new character animation or prototype as well as pre-visualise and conceive 3D models and scenes.

In addition, it could change the way that people play games – similar to the introduction of the Wii or Xbox Kinect.  It has got gamers excited, especially those in the field of serious gaming.

zSpace provides an immersive 3D platform that allows developers to quickly understand their designs in a more natural environment. It creates more efficiency and effectiveness within the visual effects creation process, as developers can see their prototypes from all angles. zSpace gives designers a new tool to perfect their craft and create stunning visuals.

By creating a more natural environment where users feel like virtual objects are in front of them can allow for more interaction and precise refinement of designs or prototypes early in the process.

3D Focus: How are you able to achieve full HD to each eye 3D using passive glasses and how does the tracking work?

Infinite Z: zSpace provides a highly realistic visualisation experience that enables professionals to directly interact with “virtual-holographic” simulations as if they were real physical objects. Using a HD stereoscopic display, trackable eyewear, a direct interaction stylus and an innovative software platform, objects in zSpace appear “solid” in open space, with full color and high resolution, and can be directly manipulated; giving users a natural way to navigate, grab, slice, carve, zoom and explore 3D models as never before possible in traditional 2D environments.

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Unlike traditional holograms where 3D images are created from a pattern of interference produced by a split laser beam, zSpace’s “virtual-holographic” objects are created through stereoscopic 3D imaging, a technique for creating or enhancing the illusion of depth in an image by presenting two offset images separately to the left and right eye of the viewer. These 2D offset images are combined in the brain to give the perception of 3D depth.  The proprietary glasses are tracked along with the stylus as part of the integrated system.  The accuracy and responsiveness of the glasses and stylus tracking are a key element in the comfort and realism that users experience with zSpace.

3D Focus:  Is your strategy in making your source code available, similar to the Google Android model? – where the application designers will effectively market Z-Space with innovative applications? Will you take a revenue share for zSpace apps?

Infinite Z: To get developers started building their own Unity based applications, Infinite Z is offering open source application code, zSpace Labs, allowing developers to easily port their application into zSpace. Through the use of zSpace and the power of the Unity development platform, designers can create truly immersive 3D experiences.

We have many other initiatives under research and development but have not announced anything specific. Stay tuned.

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3D Focus: What is the zSpace App Challenge?

Infinite Z: The zSpace App Challenge is a competition challenging our developer community to create new applications that take advantage of the realistic visualization made possible by the zSpace platform. The competition is generating excitement in the developer community, as it will recognize individuals for developing innovative apps that utilise the zSpace SDK and the Unity engine.

3D Focus: Can stereoscopic 3D video be displayed on the zSpace?

Infinite Z: Standard PC graphics output, which would include 3D video, can be viewed on a zSpace system.

3D Focus: Would it be easy to adapt a website to be viewable on a zSpace screen ? (like how a cell phone can adapt a website for the small screen)

Infinite Z: We believe there is high value in the ability to experience the web in zSpace.  Standard web pages can be viewed directly because the zSpace system can of course display standard 2D output.

 3D FOCUS COMMENT 

3D Focus believes the zSpace unit is one of the most exciting things to happen to 3D in a long while. We have seen tracking devices in the past but this is by far the most fluid and responsive. It also proves the value of full HD to each eye 3D without the flicker by using passive glasses. We would be keen to see the technology become affordable enough to reach a consumer price point for 3D televisions. In 2011, Samsung and RealD were working on such prototypes but the partnership ended before commercial models were available. Right now, the zSpace costs $6000 including the $250 stylus, meaning it will only appeal to professional environments such as universities and design institutions but, judging from the reactions of everyone who tries it, it could have fantastic broad appeal.

For more information visit zspace.com

3D creative technology company Inition also resell the zSpace in the UK.

 VIDEO – zSpace tour by Inition’s Technical Consultant Shannon Dowsing 

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