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Category Archives: Thoughts

Deakin’s Universal Motion Simulator (UMS) enables users to engage in a natural flight experience. Here, users feel g-forces as they soar through virtual and real space. The idea of immersive flight simulations is nothing new, but the advances in technology that provide a stronger feeling of presence cannot be overlooked.

Image copyright F-SIM Space Shuttle.

Admittedly, when I first saw this three things went through my mind. The first was a simulation I participated in as a child – I think it was in a NASA-affiliated museum of some sorts. In this simulator, I had to land a space rocket on the virtual runway. I never forget that experience because I managed to successfully land the space craft, but I didn’t know you had to press the “release parachute” button to slow down. So, my shuttle eventually ran into the grass at the end of the runway. Whoops.

The second thing that came to my mind was a game series on the PS2 called Zone of Enders. With the way the UMS moved about, I thought of how the Jehuty in ZOE moves about on the screen. Sure, I could have thought about other robot games like Armored Core or Gundam, but from my experiences these series always felt a bit slow and clunky compared to ZOE, which is saying something because AC’s battles can be quite fast at times.

And finally, the third thought I had pertains to combining ZOE-like combat with the immersion afforded by the UMS. Creating entertainment applications such as immersive gaming simulators is something I aspire to do one day. While UMS already supports the real-world flight simulation, I think the bigger market will be in the mass consumer sector once the technology becomes more affordable for the general public.


In the last Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2011), Sony showcased a number of 3D viewing technologies including TVs and a Head Mounted Display (HMD) prototype.  I don’t know about you guys, but my first HMD looked like this:

Virtual Boy

Yes, I was one of those lucky kids who got to play with a Nintendo Virtual Boy.  And you know what?  I had fun playing games like Mario Clash and Nester’s Funky Bowling in magnificent red 3D visuals.  I’m not sure if the VB might have contributed to my myopia, but I like to believe it only provided me a good time and maybe a slight neck ache from the weird angle I had to be at to play.

In any case, Virtual Boy wasn’t the only HMD I got to put on my noggin.  As one of the senior research programmers for Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, I had the opportunity to develop 3D simulations that were seen through an nVisor SX60:

nVisor SX60

Creating a real-time immersive experience requires technical chops, finesse, and consideration to your users and subjects; running these simulations with precision point tracking can be even more taxing on your hardware as each frame must be updated at least 60 times per second in order to avoid motion sickness.  Tack in the several thick cables required to transmit all that data from your rendering machines to each screen for your eyes, and you’ve got quite some intricacies to manage.

How does this all tie in with today’s subject,  Sony’s new HMZ-T1?

Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer

Well, Sony highlights this new device as a “personal  3D viewer,” which basically means watching your shows and movies in 3D and in private.  This application is fine for your shy media watcher, but gamers and like-minded individuals are hoping Sony will fit future iterations of the HMZ-T1 with precision tracking, ultimately transforming the HMZT1 into a machine of magic – one that can create compelling immersive virtual environments that enhance gaming experiences.

There are some cautions about the current HMZ-T1 to be noted though.  Anyone who has used similar devices will recall the potential to contract motion sickness from ill-adjusted use.  Furthermore, Sony warns that children under 15 should not use the Personal 3D Viewer – possibly due to unforeseen effects on development?  Fortunately a can of ginger ale can alleviate the motion sickness symptoms.

The HMZ-T1 scheduled to debut commercially November 11 in Japan at a price tag of about $780 USD.  Sony promises Americans can get their hands on the device for $800 USD sometime November this year.  Sounds like a hefty sum to pay for a personal TV, but if the HMZ-T1 can be used to as a precision tracking HMD, the price may very well be worth the rainy day savings when compared to $25k$37k higher end competitors’ offers.

For detailed specs about Sony’s HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer, as well as the ability to preorder your own, please visit Sony’s website here.

As an appropriate beginning for this blog, I figured I should begin with one of my first exposures to immersive technologies. How else did I get interested in the subject without some kind of lead, right?

Fashionable VR to recover your memories from your past!

So, “What’s with this image?” you may be asking yourself (which by the way was shamelessly pulled from Insight On Video Games).

Well, Star Ocean: The Second Story (SO2) for the PlayStation is one of the culprits entities responsible for my interest in Virtual Reality (VR). In particular, the scene above occurs after our heroes leave their home planet Expel with no way of returning. Some time late game, the “Mysterious old man” offers our heroes a way home via the latest VR technology! Kind of similar to the scene with Neo and Morpheus in the Matrix, where Morpheus offers Neo the choice to find out more about the Matrix.

Upon accepting the man’s offer, the heroes can walk on their home planet once again. There are some subtle changes such as additional areas to explore thanks to the Synard, which is an aerial mode of transportation in the game, but ultimately the recreation of the world, now called Virtual Expel, is entirely the same.

When SO2 first came out, I was barely beginning middle school. At the time, I didn’t think much about the implications of VR other than I could explore places and do things I wasn’t able to participate in previously in the context of SO2’s plot.

Despite acknowledging this potential – the ability to do things inside a virtual world that you normally couldn’t do in the real world – with respect to the game, I didn’t make the connection between mapping this application to my real world. I wouldn’t come by this realization until after .Hack//Sign (pronounced “dot hack sign”) captivated me with its complex and interpersonal narrative some years later.  Still, it’s interesting to note that these initial musings started as early as they did and slowly eased more and more into my interests.

While SO2 didn’t really give me the biggest exposure to immersive technology, it certainly was one of the initial factors that contributed to my interest in VR, which I would later explore in depth as a viewer of .Hack//Sign and eventually as a senior research assistant in Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.