From "Star Trek" to "Tron," the concept of porting yourself into a digital world has long been a dream of super high-tech science fiction storytelling.
Turns out you can do it yourself at home.
Well, kind of. Oliver Kreylos, a researcher at the Institute for Data Analysis and Visualization at U-C Davis, has created a DIY virtual reality rig using the Xbox Kinect system and the Oculus Rift head-mounted display.
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Kreylos started out by mounting three motion-sensing Kinect devices in a triangle to generate a real-time 3-D image of himself. He then sent the data into the Oculus Rift headset along with a separate data stream of a virtual office environment.
The result - a homebrew holodeck where you can navigate a virtual environment and look down to see your own body.
The avatar image is admittedly lo-res and glitchy, Kreylos says, but feels more "real" than motion-capture avatars.
"One of the things we've noticed [is that] even with low-res and low-quality 3D video, the resulting avatars just feel real, in some sense even more real than higher-quality motion-captured avatars," Kreylos writes on his blog. "I believe it's related to the uncanny valley principle, in that fuzzy 3D video that moves in a very lifelike fashion is more believable to the brain than high-quality avatars that don't quite move right."
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Kreylos' clever hack isn't exactly a do-it-yourself home project yet. The consumer model of the Oculus Rift isn't expected for at least a year - Kreylos used a developer's model. He also did some tweaking of the Kinect sensors to reduce lag issues.
The project is geared toward remote collaboration, but clearly the potential for gaming and recreational use is enormous. I imagine the GDP will take a hit when everyone can generate their own virtual reality at home, but hey - that's progress for you. Check out the video below.