Faced with a market for virtual reality programming tools, which is still a relatively small niche, New York-based Sens8 Corp has decided to push downmarket. Its flagship product Worldtoolkit started off life on MS-DOS marchines, before making its way to Sun Microsystems Inc and Silicon Graphics Inc workstations (CI No 1,869), but now the company […]
Faced with a market for virtual reality programming tools, which is still a relatively small niche, New York-based Sens8 Corp has decided to push downmarket. Its flagship product Worldtoolkit started off life on MS-DOS marchines, before making its way to Sun Microsystems Inc and Silicon Graphics Inc workstations (CI No 1,869), but now the company is readying a cut-down version for personal computers again. The Mercury product is due out next quarter and the company says it will cost less that $1,000 (as compared with UKP6,000 for a basic Worldtookit configuration). The company is aiming Mercury squarely at small companies and the hobbyist and is selling it as the lowest cost virtual reality development tool available. The fact that the company is promising an upgrade path to Worldtoolkit also means that corporates will have a chance to dabble in the technology before committing themselves. Meanwhile San Francisco’s Visions of Reality Corp has signed an exclusive deal with Sense8 to use Worldtoolkit to build mass-market entertainment packages.
Head-mounted display technology
The company plans to launch its first virtual reality-based game system later this year, and to that end it has also licensed head-mounted display technology from Kaiser Electro-Optic Inc of Carlsbad, California. One of the pieces of hardware bundled with Worldtoolkit is CrystalEyes from Stereographics of San Rafael, California (CI No 2,158). This headset has eyepieces equipped with liquid crystal diode ‘blinds’ that are synchronised with the workstation monitor. The monitor alternately displays the left and right images of each stereo pair at 120 frames per second and the specs blank out each eye as required: the result a stereo image on the screen. Now Stereographics has signed what it describes as a multi-million dollar OEM agreement with mouse manufacture Logitech Inc which is supplying its ultrasound head-tracker system. Stereographics has combined the two and is selling the result as CrystalEyes VR selling for $4,000. Logitech’s 3D Mouse and Head Tracker, which began shipping as a separate product last year, uses ultra-sound to detect how the user’s head moves in all three planes, including pitch, yaw and roll, providing necessary input to virtual reality applications. The package supports various stereo-ready systems, including the Sun Sparc 10GT and Sparc 2GT workstations; Silicon Graphics Reality Engine and Crimson Elan; Hewlett-Packard Co HP 9000 Models 725, 730 and 750; Intergraph Corp Microstation; Evans & Sutherland Computer Corp Freedom Series; Digital Equipment Corp Alpha; IBM Corp RS/6000 and PS/2; and Apple Computer Inc Macintosh. The company can also provide hardware to convert non-stereo-ready computers and workstations, including Apple Macs. The products are distributed in Japan by Nissho Co Ltd; in the UK by Ambitron Ltd and Virtual Presence Ltd; in Germany by Media Systems GmbH; and in Spain by Tecnologia Virtual SA.