The Gadget Show Live, April 2013: Technology in the UKby Ian Cutress on April 4, 2013 6:30 AM EST
I hope I am right in saying that most of us have been to that one ‘ride’ in a theme park or museum, that attempts to emulate a roller coaster or a car ride, with images on every wall along with the sensation of wind in the hair. The IglooVision concept is almost similar to this, except you are in a large igloo shaped dome with a PC and a first person shooter game.
In the marketing video above (much better than any one I took at the event), the gamer sits with a keyboard and mouse to enjoy the experience. The version igloo had on display at GSL was a little different.
Let me set the scene – you are holding a gun like device with a sensor on it, and are standing in the middle of the igloo with a large field of vision screen showing Crysis 3. There is an analog stick on the gun to strafe, but where you point the gun is where the screen will be looking.
The system uses five projection screens in the roof of the tent to broadcast the image you see, and anything outside the field of vision is black (otherwise you could look behind instantly). If you turn 10 degrees in a direction, the system responds by moving the image around the inside of the tent and you are facing the new direction. It sounds and looks amazing at first, with the minor downside that actually you are just rotating in a small tent.
The hardware under the system is actually quite interesting from our point of view. The part which makes the IglooVision system theirs is the depth at which they integrate the system in to the rendering pipeline. So on the base of it all is a system powered by an AMD Eyefinity card that outputs the image to five Mac Minis. The Mac Mini’s have information about where the gun is pointing, and calculate how much of the original rendered image has to be shown on its projector. The other difficult part of the equation is making the game recognize the difference between strafing and turning with the new input methods.
Obviously this is all still very early prototype stuff. Ideally Igloovision would have it all minimized into one PC to power the five projectors, and make it work on any title possible. I was told that the bulk of their code deals with OpenGL, but due to recent media coverage in the UK, NVIDIA have had interest and the company is dealing with NVIDIA and APIs under NDA to help improve the system.
My critiques came in a few parts – one was the resolution/quality (the overall output was only 720p), second was the frame rate which was around 20-25 FPS, and the third was the lag. Much like the problems Oculus has with head turning, IglooVision has the same here, and there was a noticeable lag in the system. Talking to one of the team at the event, the fact it was an early prototype was repeated often enough that they know it is an area to work on!
IglooVision itself have marketed this technology for entertainment other than games, such as at Festivals or corporate events to promote products (with and without the motion sensing). The company has 8 full time staff, and was initially funded through independent investors. They have sold their system to at least one client, and as such are feeling the pressure of deadlines! While the system overall is not one for the home, I can see use at LANs in terms of the gaming market. Good luck to them, I would love to see it finished. This is essentially what we should have had with the Wii on day one!