The first time I donned a pair of special glasses and picked up a wired stylus to enter a virtual reality was over 25 years ago. It required extremely expensive hardware, and only allowed for a simple, low-resolution, experience of machining a part on a virtual lathe. But we were all sure that practical applications were just around the corner. It has taken much longer than most of us predicted, but with its new Zvr display, HP is bringing to market a practical and useful VR tool for educators, scientists, and other professionals that need to have accurate, simulated interactions with computer-generated models.
The heart of the Zvr (if you’ll forgive the pun) is a special-purpose display from VR startup Zspace, which incorporates four cameras for head-tracking, a fully gyroscopic stylus that allows for both precise pointing and true 3D manipulation of objects, and a 3D display that uses special glasses. HP is also offering Zview software for the sharing of 3D content suitable for use on the Zvr.
I got to use the Zvr to manipulate a model of a human heart, and was able to quickly and easily select different portions of the heart, and move it around simply by twisting my wrist — the way I would if I were actually holding it in my hand. The result was an experience that felt natural, and was also precise enough that I could imagine how powerful it could be as a learning tool for fields that require a detailed understanding of complex physical objects, such as anatomy or mechanical engineering.
The stylus makes all the difference
What differentiates the Zvr — the magic behind the Zspace display that powers it — is the integrated 3D stylus. Gesture-based VR interfaces, like those powered by Leap Motion or Microsoft’s Kinect, suffer from a lack of precision, especially when it comes to twisting and turning objects using motions of your wrist and hand. Obviously, the need for a stylus does limit the use cases for the Zvr. It is not going to help you practice conducting an orchestra, or sculpt a clay statue using both hands. HP and Zspace are positioning the display primarily for science and technology related disciplines — especially for teaching them.
The high-resolution display and 3D manipulation require a fair amount of compute power. You need an HP Z-Series (or similar) workstation to run it. Along with its large size, that means it is not suitable for any type of mobile application. The viewing angle is also very limited. Even wearing the glasses, when I stood behind the person seated at the display I didn’t get any of the 3D effect. However, when I sat down, the virtual heart on the display popped into a nearly holographic 3D form. HP and Zspace have not announced a price or exact availability date, but they expect it to be in the market this spring. I’m sure it will find a home at quite a few high schools and colleges, but its ultimate success is likely to be tied to whether the VR it brings to the classroom and the lab is worth the price.
Source : Virtual reality comes to the desktop, thanks to HP and Zspace, David Cardinal ( http://www.extremetech.com/computing/196837-virtual-reality-comes-to-the-desktop-thanks-to-hp-and-zspace )