Let’s face it. Virtual reality headsets? Old news. They’ve been around the consumer market for all of, what, months? Yeah, time to lay these dinosaur fossils to rest. Or at least that’s what Japan seems to think, if the Panoworks 3D projector is any indication. The projector aims to provide a virtual reality experience without the need to strap anything to your head. And the execution is simpler than you might imagine… on paper.
Using an overhead projector, an image is displayed across a curved 3D shell that acts as the canvas. Aside from the obvious, the concept differs from headset virtual reality in several ways. First, more than one person can fit “inside” the projected space, and users are not cut off from the real world since they can easily turn around and walk away from the console. Think of it as a sci-fi computer station with those holographic displays. There’s no head tracking with this setup, however, but it can be paired with a Kinect and Leap Motion or a trackpad.
As for the canvas itself, the curved surface encloses 150 degrees horizontally, a little less than half a full circle, and 66 degrees vertically. To compare, the combined range of view for both human eyes, without moving the head, is around 200 degrees left and right, and around 130 vertical. So while the projected virtual reality image will have noticeable edges, it’s large enough that the viewer will find themselves immersed with no trouble. Pair this with touch screen technology and a good sound system and the experience is almost complete.
No release date or price for the Panoworks projector has yet been announced. With virtual reality still taking its baby steps, it might be quite the wait, but it’s sure to present a tantalizing alternative for fans. Those who can afford it, anyway.
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Matt Eschbach is a PC, Mac and Android indie game developer and fiction writer. His works have won multiple monetary awards from various contests. Graduating college in 2012 with a major in Game Design, Matt spends his time making stuff up and then building it. His favorite hobby… is sleeping.