In a tough economy, there’s always the question of how people will spend their money and time, especially during the holidays. Some folks will “cocoon,” meaning they’ll stay home and hunker down in front of the TV or PC for fun and order out or cook for sustenance.
Electronic equipment plays a large role, which is good for the industry and may serve it well this year. With this in mind, I attended one of the pre-CES (Consumer Electronics Show) mini trade shows held in Manhattan each fall. The event drew over 20 companies showing off gadgets, gear, and software, with two particularly good candidates for the cocooning crowd.
THE STEREOSCOPIC 3D EXPERIENCE
At the Nvidia booth, a company representative was playing Guitar Hero in front of a large-screen LCD TV. A couple of attendees were wearing what seemed to be sunglasses and looking at the screen. To my unaided eyesight, the screen was a blur of figures. I hung around until the presenter turned to me.
He looked at my badge. “Joe Desposito,” he said, “I know you.” And indeed, he did. The guitar-playing guy was Nick Stamm, who I knew from my days at PC Magazine, but hadn’t seen in many years. Nick knows his stuff technically, so I was glad to get a chance to talk to him. He explained the system to me before he started playing again.
The off-the-shelf version of Guitar Hero was cranking on a PC with an Nvidia GeForce graphics card. To get the 3D effect, Nvidia will be packaging the card with stereoscopic 3D “sunglasses” and an emitter. The emitter sits on top of the display and communicates wirelessly with a receiver in the glasses, which contain lenses with LCD shutters. The emitter synchronizes the left and right lenses with the frames displaying on screen. By the way, the LCD TV needs to be one of the newer 120-Hz models for all of this to work.
Nick gave me the glasses, which I wore over my own glasses, and proceeded to play the game. The 3D effects were stunning— no extra programming needed. The graphics card, emitter, and glasses work in tandem to produce the 3D effects. This system will work with any off-the-shelf PC games.
THE 3D YOU
Big Stage Entertainment offered some personal 3D effects. The representative at the company’s booth took three pictures of me—head on, slightly to the right, and slightly more to the right. Then he loaded them onto his computer and in about a minute or so produced a 3D image of me. Big Stage calls it the Digital You. I, of course, call it the Digital Me (see the figure).
You can go to the company’s Web site, www.bigstage.com, and create an animated 3D Digital You of yourself for free. You then can use this character for instant projection into the online landscape. The company calls this 3D image an “@ctor.”
The Digital You can be customized with accessories and then inserted into a growing selection of movie scenes, TV clips, music videos, virtual worlds, social networks, still images, video games, advertisements, and more to share with friends, family, and colleagues who may also be cocooning and looking for something interesting to do.
The lifelike 3D @ctors are based on advanced stereo reconstruction technology funded by CIA and other government grants as a research project at the University of Southern California. The company’s R&D team focused on extracting the quality and accuracy of complex 3D scanning technology, previously only available to production houses and animation companies, and making it available to any consumer with a digital camera through an easy-to-use browser platform.
To create and view @ctors in action, you have to install the Big Stage Media Player. Once installed, @ctors can be styled instantly with accessories including hair, eyeglasses, hats, and clothing and can be projected into a variety of digital media.
We took a video of this demonstration, which you can find at www.electronicdesign.com, ED Online 20209. I couldn’t see a spot-on resemblance of the real me to the Digital Me, which makes me think that the program is doing a best match to a figure already in the software. But that’s only speculation. You will have to decide for yourself, if you plan to cocoon for a while and try out this technology.