Remember that scene in Star Wars, where the rebel alliance are looking at a hologram of the Death Star? Even in a galaxy far far away, 3D imaging is an advanced, touchy, and unreliable technology. And most of today's available three dimensional modeling and augmented reality programs leave much to the imagination. Trying to understand an object through views on a screen takes lots of skill and patience. Is the day that designers and engineers can view their projects outside the limits of their monitors finally here?
Infinite Z, a Silicon Valley start-up, has created an immersive and interactive holographic platform that promises to change the way designers interact with their computers. Information on the website and videos show that the system, zSpace, is made up of familiar hardware, a pen and tablet, as well as a patented stereoscopic display, 3D eyewear, and software. The high resolution and responsive rendering and imaging make objects in zSpace appear real and solid. Designers will be able to literally see a design take shape in front of them.
How it works
When a user looks at the 24 inch screen (with the 3D glasses on), tracking points embedded in the frames of the glasses track the relationship of a user's face to the screen. The software then adjusts the image, kind of like a rotating movie camera effect, and the polarized lenses in the glasses create the illusion of form. Then, using a stylus that simulates a laser, the user can select and manipulate the holgram of their project. The stylus is also tracked, although separate from the glasses, so that the relationship of a viewed object can be recorded before the image is rendered. Since the object isn't limited to the size, space, and fixed position of the screen, zSpace becomes a virtual environment to design in and not just a 3D representation.
The video below shows a simulation:
The system is $6,000, a steep but not unreasonable price. zSpace launched at Autodesk University last fall to lots of excitement and anticipation. Although initially targeting the industrial design market, any industry where digital mapping is an advantage, such as architecture and medical research, would benefit.
If this all seems too sci-fi to be true, I'm right there with you. And since I am a skeptic, but an intrigued one, I'll be trying it out in person, and posting a review.