If you have an AMD-based video card that has support for the AMD HD3D Technology (Radeon HD 5000 series or newer) you can take advantage of the promotion that DDD is currently running for their TriDef 3D software and get a license for half the normal retail price. With the help of the TriDef 3D software you can convert games into stereoscopic 3D format for playing on compatible 3D-capable monitors or 3D HDTV sets, as well as play 3D photos and 3D videos on your 3D-cabled PC. Have in mind that this discount will be valid until the end of this month (November 30th), so you should take advantage of that offer now and not wait for the last moment and possible miss your chance. What you should be well aware of however is that by getting the discounted license for the TriDef 3D for AMD HD3D software you will be able to run it only on compatible AMD graphics, so if you replace your graphics card with an Nvidia-based one at a later time you will not be able to use the software on it! The TriDef 3D software has a 14-day trial version available that you may download and try before you decide if you should buy a license for the software.
November 5th, 2013 · 1 Comment · General 3D News
October 31st, 2013 · No Comments · 3D / AR / VR / HMD
castAR is a projected augmented reality system that displays holographic-like 3D projections right in front of you inspired by Star Wars’ holographic depictions. It is another alternative to Head Mounted Displays that allows you to bring you augmented reality and virtual reality experience in a compact and lightweight glasses-type of product. What differs the castAR system from HMD devices like the Oculus Rift is that instead of an LCD display it relies on micro projectors that project the light on retro-reflective material. You also get head tracking and additional controllers such as a “magic wand” and objects using RFID tags that allow you to interact with real objects in augmented reality. And another great thing is that you get stereoscopic 3D support as a part of the experience that is possible thanks to the use of dual micro projectors. Think for example about a board game going digital and multiplayer over the Internet, this could be a great use for this system and probably that was the general idea behind the design of that concept. As we all know the problem with projects such as castAR is that they are so different from the traditional display devices that you need to have games specially designed to be played with them and that takes some time, so even with the project already funded and reaching its original goal the announced shipping date for the hardware is September 2014 and even by then the software for castAR probably is not going to be that much. Have in mind that castAR is primary designed around the concept of Augmented Reality and not Virtual Reality, so it will probably be much better for AR than VR experience.
To tell you the truth I was not as excited about castAR as when Oculus Rift Kickstarter project launched, at least not before the announcement that castAR will be supported by the Vireio Perception open source driver. This means that when the first public build of version 2.0 gets released on November 28th it should already have support for the castAR system, thus allowing you to play existing games in a virtual reality environment with head tracking and stereoscopic 3D functionality when the castAR system comes out next year. This is great news and I’m also expecting to see how the the Vireio Perception 2.0 will perform with Oculus Rift as it is still the only free and open source solution for “converting” games that were not designed for the Rift to be played on the HMD. The other two available solutions are commercial products – DDD TriDef (only in beta) and vorpX, though I will not be surprised to see TriDef also getting support for castAR in the near future.
castAR’s projected augmented reality system is comprised of two main components: a pair of glasses and a surface. The frames of the glasses contain two micro-projectors—one for each eye. Each projector casts a perspective view of a stereoscopic 3D image onto the surface. Your eyes focus on this projected image at a very natural and comfortable viewing distance. A tiny camera in-between the projectors scans for infrared identification markers placed on the surface. The camera uses these markers to precisely track your head position and orientation in the physical world, enabling the software to accurately adjust how the holographic scene should appear to you. The glasses get their video signal through an HDMI connection. The camera is connected via a USB port on the PC.
The surface is made of retro-reflective sheeting material, similar to the kind used in traffic signs and high-visibility safety clothing. The primary benefit to using this material is that it bounces the majority of light from our projectors directly back toward the glasses with very little scattering. This enables the simultaneous use of a single surface by multiple people while keeping each viewer’s view private from the others.
Since your vision is focused at a natural viewing distance, you shouldn’t experience eye strain. Projected augmented reality allows you to simultaneously see both virtual and real-world surroundings, so you are spared other sorts of discomfort as well. For example, an important aspect of your body’s understanding of the physical world is tied to your inner ear—the part of your body responsible for balance and motion sensing. When you are able to see your physical world, your eyesight and inner ear will stay in sync with your movements. Most people do not feel nausea or motion sickness when using castAR and projected augmented reality.
October 20th, 2013 · 1 Comment · 3D / AR / VR / HMD
Time to share some personal impressions from the VorpX beta driver that adds support for the Oculus Rift VR headset in games that do not have official support for the device. I’ve purchased a beta license soon after it has been released earlier this month and played a bit with the software, so I can share some experience about how it works, what I like and what I don’t and so on as a user. If you already have a Rift Development Kit or are planning to get one, then getting a license for the VorpX beta driver is definitely a must do thing (costs around $40 USD) as the software really works very well considering it is still a beta. Aside from the VorpX, there are other alternative solutions that offer similar support for playing games that are not specially designed to support the Oculus Rift HMD and these are the Vireio Perception (open source driver) and DDD TriDef 3D software that offers beta support (trial mode available, the software is commercial). Other than these three there is the Stereoscopic Player (commercial software with trial mode) that supports Oculus Rift viewing mode for 3D videos and the rest is pretty much games and software demos that have official built-in Oculus Rift support. Don’t forget that Oculus Rift is still in a development stage and that the consumer model shoudl be available by the end of next year (probably), so we should not be too harsh on a development kit hardware and beta software for it…
I’ll start with the most serious problem that VorpX has pretty much since day 1 – total lack of information. I know that the guy(s) behind the project are probably quite busy with the programming part of the software, and they are doing really good job now that I have finally seen the beta version of VorpX, but they should pay attention to other things as well… especially if they are going to be charging money for the software. To tell you the truth I was a bit skeptical at first when I read about the project, due to lack of information an updates on the progress it all seemed like it may not happen at all, so I was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw when the beta and tried it in action even though there is more work to be done. Unfortunately the problem with lack of VITAL information about VorpX still exists – the beta is here, people buy it and they are left with no manual or detailed documentation on all of the features and functions that the software offers and it has quite some. You are pretty much left to tinker with them in order to learn what they do and how they affect things. Next up in the list of problems is the game compatibility list, you may spend quite some time looking for it and you may end up not finding it, I have ended up finding it on another website. Don’t get me wrong, I like the VorpX driver, but when you are asking money for something you cannot have the most basic things like proper documentation and game compatibility list missing!
And now it is time for the good stuff. The software is quite easy to use, just install, register your license and run it. The registration part may take up a few days, because after purchasing the software you need to download and install it, run it to get a request code and then send that code over an email in order to get your registration license – this can surely be streamlined as you probably would want to try out the software immediately after you purchase it. Anyway, make sure to have your Oculus Rift connected when you run VorpX, otherwise the software will not start, though just giving you a warning and still running could be helpful when testing for games compatibility and you don’t actually need to use the Rift. If the software’s icon is in the system tray when you run a game it should normally run in a Rift friendly mode, though if it does not, you can create a Desktop Shortcut to run the game with VorpX enabled and that sometimes can help (use the “Create Desktop Shortcut” from the menu you get by right clicking on the VorpX tray icon). For the moment you can expect to have problems with some games if they are ran through Steam, Origin or even if they have their own game launchers before actually running the game, it is also possible that some other software that hooks up to DirectX calls such as FRAPS drawing overlays on the screen may cause problems though I did not have any when using FRAPS specifically.
According to the list of officially supported games VorpX should work with about 80-90 games (that means they have profiles and stereoscopic 3D support), but then again as I’ve said you may have trouble finding which ones are these and even if you do find the list you may have trouble understanding it. Unfortunately while the VorpX software should have profiles for all officially supported games with some settings preset such as the stereoscopic 3D rendering mode used, the control panel of the software currently does not offer even listing these profiles let alone allowing you to edit them, though it should offer that functionality apparently. You can edit the settings while inside a game by calling up the in-game VorpX overlay menu with the DEL key, that is if you are able to read it as it is semi-transparent and you need to find a good place with a darker image on the screen. Also a useful tip, you might want to disable the HeadTracking Roll option from the in-game menu in most if not all games as when it is not properly supported in a game it can cause some issues. Also you might want to play a bit with the Aspect Ratio option as the default Smart option may not always provide the best results in some games. The HeadTracking Sensitivity is another option that might help you get better experience while playing if the world “spins around” too fast or too slow when you move your head.
What makes difference is that in games that will work with VorpX, but are not yet “officially supported” (not have profiles) the stereoscopic 3D rendering will not be enabled and available for the user to enable through the in-game VorpX settings menu. The two rendering modes for stereoscopic 3D that VorpX supports are: Z-Buffer Mode that is the kind of “fake” stereo 3D effect that offers faster performance and decent results and Geometry Mode that is supposed to be full dual view rendering with better stereo 3D effect, but with more performance hit. Now, I completely get that if a game has not been tested to work with the two stereoscopic 3D rendering methods the VorpX supports things can get messy, but having it just disabled at start and still giving the user the option to try to enable it to test might actually help in finding faster what games work and what have issues. We all have played the profile game where you recognize the game by the name of the executable file and run an appropriate profile for it, so by just renaming the executable of a game to a supported game by VorpX you can get the stereo 3D rendering option back, but why should we have to do this. There are also some really useful features available some of which I find very useful, like for example the Edge Peek functionality that allows you to look around the corners of the screen that may normally not be visible when using the Rift as well as the Image Zoom function that allows you to zoom-in or out the whole image displayed on screen (good feature to compensate for the use of different lenses of the Rift).
You should have in mind that currently the VorpX software only works with 32-bit games , it will not work if you run a 64-bit game executable. The software does work just fine under 64-bit Windows, it will just not attach itself to 64-bit game executable, but fortunately there are not many of these and the games that come with 64-bit executable usually have a separate 32-bit ones as well. Other important things that the developers of VorpX note in their forum are that VorpX requires AMD/ATI or Nvidia graphics card and it may not work on Intel graphics (who would play games on an integrated Intel GPU anyway) and SLI or Crossfire multi-graphics card setups may or may not work (could not test that as I currently do not have a SLI/Crossife setup). Also disabling stereoscopic 3D support on systems using other stereoscopic 3D drivers before running a game with VorpX is recommended, so if you have a 3D Vision system for example don’t forget to disable the stereoscopic 3D support from the Nvidia Control Panel.
One more thing as last that is not yet very clear and that is how updates for the VorpX will be distributed. Since we are not downloading the software from anywhere directly and there is no Update option available anywhere in it we might have to use the web downloader to reinstall it by downloading a newer version or we may get notified by email with an update link. Again according to information in the VorpX forums we are most likely going to see the first update for the VorpX beta by the end of this month, hopefully addressing at least some of the issues mentioned above.