Even after a 25-year animation career, I can still remember the exact moment that I decided to become a professional animator: It was at an all-night movie marathon of Ralph Bakshi films. While watching Bakshi’s Heavy Traffic (his 2nd feature release, but his first true auteur film) I was thunderstruck by its gritty honesty. The film served up top-quality character animation supporting a fiercely street-level aesthetic. To an impressionable teenaged animation fan raised solely on a diet of classic Disney features, this film was a revelation. Here were characters as richly textured as any of the street smart hustlers inhabiting the stories of Taxi Driver or Midnight Cowboy. I was elated! I now had a vision that it was possible to create “underground” animation in the vein of R. Crumb and so many of my underground comix heroes. I decided that night to move to L.A. and fashion a career in the animation business.
I did eventually move to Hollywood, where I got trained in classic animation techniques by Disney old-timers. I used those precious lessons to great success in the era of burgeoning digital animation in the 1990s and beyond. I was there the FIRST time VR stuttered to life in the mid 90s, only to have its plug pulled for lack of technical viability. Fast-forward past 24k-baud modems, the first PDAs, internet 1.0, handheld gaming systems, theme park rides -- I have created content for all of them. But I have never been as creatively (or technically) challenged as when I set about trying to create the first completely hand-drawn VR cartoon. Read the rest
The New Zealand Fire Service put together a terrifying interactive website showing how quickly a house fire spreads. They hung some clothes too close to a heater, and within a minute, the entire room was an inferno. Scroll up the ceiling for a sense of how intense it gets. Read the rest
NASA has always been an early adopter of technology like virtual and augmented reality for training. Here's a cool glimpse into how they train future ISS and landing party astronauts. Read the rest
Samuli Cantell had the interesting idea of importing her ultrasound data into a 3D modeling program to create a VR experience: Read the rest
My friend Kevin Mack (who did the Special Effects for Fight Club and many other movies) created a VR art experience called Blortasia for the HTC Vive. Here's a preview.
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Fly freely through a surreal maze of evolving sculptures. Take a break from reality and explore an animated psychedelic sculpture park. Wander through the labyrinth, soar across the open space, or just hang out and let the mesmerizing ever-changing sculptures provide a rejuvenating refuge for your mind. Blortasia combines art and flying in virtual reality.
This oft-seen wonderfully weird photo depicts Hugo Gernsback wearing his "teleyeglasses" in 1963. Gersnback, an inventor of such innovations as a combination electric hair brush/comb and a battery-powered handheld illuminated mirror, is best known to science fiction fans as the founder of Amazing Stories magazine! Gernsback coined the term "science fiction" and the Hugo Awards are named in his honor. But back to the history of his teleyeglasses, as discussed in IEEE Spectrum:
A Life magazine profile of Gernsback in July 1963, when he was 78, described his “teleyeglasses”:
He now invents only in broad outline, leaving the actual mechanics of the thing to others. His television eyeglasses—a device for which he feels millions yearn—constitute a case in point. When the idea for this handy, pocket-size portable TV set occurred to him in 1936, he was forced to dismiss it as impractical. But a few weeks ago, feeling that the electronics industry was catching up with his New Deal-era concepts, he orders some of his employees to build a mock-up.
The teleyeglasses weighed about 140 grams and were built around small cathode-ray tubes that ran on low-voltage current from tiny batteries. (The user faced no danger of being electrocuted, Gernsback promised.) Because there was a separate screen for each eye, it could display stereoscopic images—much like today’s 3D virtual-reality glasses. Noting the massive V-type antenna protruding from the teleyeglasses, Life described the effect as “neo-Martian.”
"The Man Who Invented VR Goggles 50 Years Too Soon" (IEEE Spectrum) Read the rest
A virtual reality version of Google Earth is now available on Steam for the HTC Vive. Viewers can walk around, or fly, or browse any number of recorded locations. Read the rest
Surviga seems to like the world inside a HTC's Vive virtual reality headset. Read the rest
Modal VR, the new stealth startup co-founded by Atari and Chuck E. Cheese creator, has opened the doors a crack. According to Bushnell, their portable VR system is built for business applications (even though the demo video shows, you guessed it, a game). “We want to help enterprises solve problems by looking at them from another point of view," Bushnell said.
“For those of us who grew up on “Star Trek,” the holodeck has always been the gold standard," he said. “Modal VR is the first time that I believe we actually have the holodeck.”
"Nolan Bushnell’s Modal VR launches next-generation virtual reality platform for enterprises" (VentureBeat)
"Nolan Bushnell Says His New Virtual Reality Startup Has the Keys to the Holodeck—and it’s Portable" (IEEE Spectrum)
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Even if you don't have a VR headset, Chris Milk's Evolution of Verse hints beautifully at the future of immersive entertainment. Go fullscreen, don headphones, and get close! Read the rest
Some people experience virtual reality sickness while wearing headsets, and it's similar to motion sickness. Mayo Clinic researchers have developed Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS) to help with VR sickness, and it may one day help with other balance issues. Read the rest
Virtual reality gaming and exploration doesn’t have to cost a fortune...you can enjoy a ridiculously cool VR experience for under $20 with the VR Box Virtual Reality headset on sale for $18.99 - 36% off - in the Boing Boing Store.
VR Box creates a comfortable headset unit that’s compatible with most smartphone models - just slip in your phone, adjust the easy-to-use Optical Axis Sliding Control to maneuver your 42mm-diameter resin lens and start enjoying VR gaming, apps and videos that immerse you in a 3D world.
The unit includes plenty of padding for a comfortable fit on your face with high-quality lens that won’t fatigue your eyes like many other VR headset models.
You’ll even get a game controller that connects to your phone and headset via Bluetooth, offering loads of gameplay options that will definitely take your Google Play or Apple Store games to the next level.
Usually priced at $30, pick up the VR Box Virtual Reality headset now for the discounted price of just $18.99 before this offer expires. Read the rest
Magic Leap continues to roll out tantalizing demos of their mixed reality technology, this time imposing the "lost droids" scene into a typical room. Read the rest
Caleb Kraft used the Google Cardboard design to make a working VR headset from graham crackers and icing. It's entirely edible, except for the lenses.
"Making an Edible Virtual Reality Viewer for Your Phone" (MAKE:)
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Media artist Michael Naimark writes:
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In 1990, right as the first VR wave was swelling, Stewart Brand and Grateful Dead manager Jon Mcintyre concocted a scheme to produce an invitation-only 24-hour VR event modeled after the Electric Cool-Aid Acid test. They convinced Colossal Pictures, the largest soundstage in San Francisco, to host it. Dozens of demos and scores of talks were presented, by far the largest and most prominent VR event of its kind. I directed the video production. In total, 66 hours of video, both from a pro crew and a “basket full of prosumer cameras”, was shot.
Shortly after the event, David (Lawrence), Jim (McKee), and Earwax received an NEA grant to make a radio show. The funding enabled all of the video to be logged and transcribed. From it they made several versions, organized in short 1-4 minute themed sections. Their style was very “pre RadioLab”. From the New American Radio website:
Virtual Paradise—The Reality Tape (1992-93)
Earwax Productions with David Lawrence. An exciting production created in the spirit of the technology it focuses on. Virtual Paradise examines the ideas, issues, and attitudes that currently surround virtual reality. As this technology evolves, it brings with it the potential for redefining our most basic assumptions about media, experience, and reality. Virtual Paradise features many voices recorded at Cyberthon, a 24-hour virtual reality event presented by Whole Earth Institute in 1990. It also includes interviews with such visionaries as science-fiction author William Gibson, VR architect Jaron Lanier, artificial reality pioneer Myron Krueger, and Timothy Leary—all intercut with music and sound effects and shaped into a highly entertaining and insightful "virtual" tape composition.
In Wired, BB pal Kevin Kelly wrote a definitive feature about the current (and future?) state of virtual reality, technology that many of us first tried in the late 1980s but took nearly thirty years to be ready for prime time.
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I first put my head into virtual reality in 1989. Before even the web existed, I visited an office in Northern California whose walls were covered with neoprene surfing suits embroidered with wires, large gloves festooned with electronic components, and rows of modified swimming goggles. My host, Jaron Lanier, sporting shoulder-length blond dreadlocks, handed me a black glove and placed a set of homemade goggles secured by a web of straps onto my head. The next moment I was in an entirely different place. It was an airy, cartoony block world, not unlike the Minecraft universe. There was another avatar sharing this small world (the size of a large room) with me—Lanier.
We explored this magical artificial landscape together, which Lanier had created just hours before. Our gloved hands could pick up and move virtual objects. It was Lanier who named this new experience “virtual reality.” It felt unbelievably real. In that short visit I knew I had seen the future. The following year I organized the first public hands-on exhibit (called Cyberthon), which premiered two dozen experimental VR systems from the US military, universities, and Silicon Valley. For 24 hours in 1990, anyone who bought a ticket could try virtual reality. The quality of the VR experience at that time was primitive but still pretty good.