Real 3D Visualization: The Promise of Virtual Holography

By contrast, a 2D image that provides both monocular and binocular cues is referred as a stereoscopic 3D image. The canvas of a monoscopic 3D image is a flat and static surface. The canvas for a stereoscopic 3D image becomes a window through which a dynamic 3D environment appears, due in part to the concept of parallax, where 3D objects can appear far away (behind the screen) or close by (in front of the screen) (see Figure 2). In order to generate a 2D image that adds binocular cues, one needs to supply the left and right eyes with separate images that closely correspond to the images the eyes would see were they looking at the real object. When the brain is presented with left and right eye images, it fuses them into a single image that has strong depth perception.

A current area of focus for the industry is integrating 3D virtualization into industry- leading CAD software products such as Autodesk Maya® and Showcase® to operate in true 3D imaging. Companies like Infinite Z produce a Software Developer Kit, or SDK, which can be used to leverage three-dimensional capability by an application. The SDK integrates stereoscopic 3D projection information into the application’s rendering system. It also provides some augmented information to give the application stereoscopic 3D projection. The process of tracking the user’s head, and integrating that information into the stereoscopic 3D calculation, is a function of enabling the technology’s head-tracking feature. The final element to this system is the access to the position and orientation of the stylus. The application can then use this information to integrate both existing and new direct interaction workflows. With these three elements, an existing or new 3D application can be made into a fully immersive virtual holographic application.

The Possibilities of 3D Virtual Holography

The possible uses for virtual holography remain endless. The research community could design a robotic explorer without building handcrafted models and expensive pre-prototype test constructions. This could reduce the cost of unmanned missions by a significant margin. The head-tracking ability of the display and the interactive feature of the stylus are two unique features. Using motion parallax — a depth cue that results from one’s movement relative to his or her environment — offers comfortable and natural 3D interaction with the design. Using a virtual-holographic system, a virtual camera within the software can closely examine small components, including an engine. Alternatively, the entire rover may be lifted into the air and rotated in an unrestricted fashion, pulled towards the designer, and examined in greater detail or pushed away and seen from a wider view (see Figure on page 66).

Other applications include remote medical procedures, education, architectural drafting in three dimensions, and imaging for the film and entertainment industry. By allowing the user to create three-dimensional objects in a virtual-holographic world and interact with virtual tools, tasks that once required hours of two-dimensional projections of real-world objects become greatly simplified and allow direct interaction. Recognizing where the user’s head is relative to the image, as in Infinite Z’s system, for example, allows for a natural and intuitive interface. Similarly, the use of a stylus enables ease in selecting objects, which would otherwise require a substantial amount of cognitive processing.

The key functionality that this new form of 3D visualization provides centers on the naturalness and comfort of the user experience. Imagine selecting and rotating an engine block in real space, thinking about fine-tuning the engine design itself. Thus, less time is spent simply trying to understand what the conventional projection will look like when realized as a three-dimensional object. Users can then spend more time focusing on the creative aspects of the project. While it is possible to describe a 3D virtual-holographic experience in words, one must interact with it first hand to appreciate its power and beauty.

This article was written by Dave Chavez, VP of Hardware Engineering, Infinite Z, Inc. and Andy Schaub, Senior Technical Writer, Infinite Z, Inc. For more information, visit http://info.hotims.com/40431-155.