Michael Frank Deering: Experimental Displays
Many of my research projects at Sun involved an number of experimental displays – in some cases purchased from vendors, but many built in-house, including many variations of combinations of multiple video projectors. This page collects several of them together.
The Virtual Portal
The Virtual Portal is described on its own page. This was the most important of my custom display configuration efforts.
6K x 4K Screen
For various trade show demonstrations from Sun, a number of different tiled multi-projector displays were built. It is embarrassing, but I have lost track of which specific configurations were publicly displayed. I think that the largest was built from 10 2048×1280 Electrohome tube projectors, which would have had a total screen resolution of ~6Kx4K. The system was driven by a mid-range Sun server, with 10 Sun graphics cards. It also had a field sequential stereo display mode, at half the number of pixels per eye.
4K x 2.4K Screen: 72 inch Workstation
The image below shows a permanent four 2048×1280 rear-projector display that I built in my lab at Sun. The day this picture was taken the projectors hadn’t been calibrated recently, and a color difference between the projectors can be seen. This display was used to experiment with what a really large screen would do for a single user, though we also used it for displays for small audiences. Specifically we did real-time digital playback of large format movie segments we had access to (usually IMAXTM content). The main thing we learned with the single user experiments is that the existing cursor size was far too small for the user to find it much of the time. (A similar experiment at Microsoft has recently come to the same conclusion, though I don’t know if this means that the technology will change.)
The image below shows a single screen non-projector. For some experiments, we turned a 40 inch Mitsubishi CRT monitor on its side and used it as a stereo table display. This was the display usually used to show HoloFlicks.
40 inch Workstation
The image below shows a single 1380×1024 LCOS rear-projector display that I built in my lab at Sun. This display was used to experiment with what a medium size screen would do for a single user.
Head Mounted Displays (HMDs)
The image below shows a rogue’s gallery of several generations of HMD’s that were purchased for research at Sun. Having gone through the guts of the process of helping built one of the first color HMD’s at Schlumberger (SPAR_VR), I didn’t want to do this one myself again, so I initially bought one of the first HMD’s from Virtual Research. In the photo several other HMDs can be seen, including a rare quad rez Virtual-IO.
The image below shows a transparent commercial screen material marked as “HoloScreen” by DNP. The screen is a hologram material: at most angles light passes straight through. But at 35 degrees (+/- some) light is scattered, as in a normal screen material (light scatters off both the front and the back surfaces, so it can be viewed from either side). While primarily aimed at high end retail markets, I bought one of the first of these in 2000 to experiment with displaying field sequential stereo images. The idea is that with no screen boarder for the eye to focus on, the stereo effect might be easier for some people. Unfortunately I left Sun before actually running the experiments.
Although it is not a display, it is the mid-size Sun server with eight graphics heads, eight processors, 64GB of memory, and 2TB of disk, that served as my VR lab server that drove most of the displays above in the late nineteen nineties.