One of the many joys of SIGGRAPH is getting to explore all of the new visualization technology first-hand. Among the coolest things we saw was OptiTrack's demo, combining advanced real-time motion-capture technology with virtual reality.

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, motion-capture (or "Mo-cap" for short) records the movements of a set of points through a 3d space, usually to translate a human actor's live-action performances into a CGI character in a film, or to produce animations which can be reused for video game characters. What both of these applications have in common is that the motion capture itself can take place long before any audience sees the resulting animations attached to a digital character, allowing any computationally expensive processing stage (or manual fixing of animations due to any hiccups in the capture process) to be hidden by the inherent time delay.

OptiTrack, on the other hand, works in the relatively new field of real-time motion-capture, which delivers highly accurate results with essentially no time delay between the capture process and the visualization it is driving. The demo we played with gave us the opportunity to play virtual-reality basketball with a real basketball, with a partner who appeared as an android in game, but was being animated by the actions of a real human in the same room.

OptiTrack has published an official demo video, but we thought you'd have more fun watching Kerm and I try it for ourselves.

We've highlighted several of the challenges we faced while playing basketball in the VR/motion-capture setting, but it was certainly an amazing technology and we can't wait to see how it develops in the near future.
Wow, I couldn't even begin to see how VR will come together in the next 20 years. Will VR headsets become the display device of preference...?
oldmud0 wrote:
Wow, I couldn't even begin to see how VR will come together in the next 20 years. Will VR headsets become the display device of preference...?

I think we're in the stage of VR where research and development has created the product and now R&D is watching the market, seeing the uses for this technology and where to best expand and tailor it to. Don't get me wrong, parts of R&D are going towards development of the technology still. The HMDs can get lighter, thinner and, more accurate but in the meantime we'll see tons of applications for the technology. A bunch of "What if..." creations.

A see VR as not a gaming platform. It's certainly going to be continuously ingrained in gaming culture but I think the biggest application is going to be in experiences. By "biggest" I don't mean the most widespread but the most enveloping. Imagine if a museum set up a life size replica of a pharaohs tomb. They would physically construct foam walls and stuff to mimic the VR experience. Maybe have 5 people at a time in the "tomb" and the other visitors are represented in the VR world as ancient Egyptian avatars. I think that'd be incredibly awesome.

To walk along a street in Pompeii years before Mount Vesuvius erupted.
To explore the Parthenon as it was, not as it stands.
To experience history in a unique and immersive way.

I hope that'll be how a majority of the public experiences this technology. There are also other reasons, such as architecture. Being able to see how the interior of a building will look before it's built. Being able to see the building in the environment before it's built, NVIDIA is doing just that and I saw it demoed at GTC this year. Being able to see something before it's built is a great tool.

Take this 20 years from now? Oh man. It'll probably be a bit more mainstream and perhaps we'll have AR perfected. We'll all have Google Glass devices. Computer monitors could be a thing of the past. It's interesting to think that far ahead. I love it.
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