High Resolution VR

Michael Frank Deering: VR: High Resolution VR


My first Sun paper on Virtual Reality was about my “High Resolution Virtual Workstation” project. The idea was to augment a commercially shipping Sun 3D workstation with head-tracked stereo shutter glasses and a 3D mouse. The SIGGRAPH paper describes a lot of the technical detail necessary to make highly accurate hand-eye coordinate between the physical and virtual world work on the desktop. The overall “fishtank VR” display environment was similar to the set-up I with others had first built at Schlumberger (Schlumberger VR projects). The difference was the higher accuracy tracker (Logitech) and calibration techniques. The overall VR viewing model was eventually became a good chunk of the Java 3DTM viewing model.

The same system was used on a tracked physical video camera to produce augmented reality style displays (similar to what became known as virtual sets), as well as eventually driving head mounted displays. The SIGGRAPH 2002 paper described the augmented reality mode (and a video clip of it made it into the Film and Video show that year); thus this paper is also one of the first modern augmented reality papers. (Though once again many people don’t read history; Ivan Sutherland’s pioneering 1968 experimental head mounted display set-up worked in both opaque and partially transparent see-through mode; thus this was also the first operational augmented reality display.)

Public Showing

The first public display of the system was at SIGGRAPH 1991 in Las Vegas. Because the “VR kit” to upgrade a Sun GT based workstation (or later ZX based) cost less than $10K (later $4K when the standard Sun CRT worked in stereo), quite a number of these systems were duplicated by Sun’s demo group, various Sun regional offices, and various Sun customers. At this time SGI was staying away from VR because it had a “game” stereotype (given the game VR companies), and was not yet directly active in demonstrating VR. Thus during the period 1991-1994 I estimated that several hundred thousands people got their first industrial (non-gaming) VR experience on my set-up. At least one science museum bought the entire system for permanent display.

In terms of corporate pictures, if you look at the Sun 10th anniversary book, the “centerfold” (center pair of pages in the book) is a two page picture of someone using my High Resolution Virtual Workstation.


While I built a number of different demos into a larger demo loop, the most popular were the virtual lathe and the virtual toothpaste. I was also proud of a 3D implementation of SpaceWar I added, first shown at the Hacker’s conference. The first person to sit down and play it was the former champion of a SpaceWar contest from the early 1970′s!

The custom demos were eventually replaced by HoloSketch applications, and then later by Java 3D applications.


The main two paper are the 1992 SIGGRAPH paper, and the 1993 VRAIS paper.

Michael F. Deering “High Resolution Virtual Reality”, in Proc. SIGGRAPH ’92, Computer Graphics, pages 195-202, 1992.

Michael F. Deering “Explorations of Display Interfaces for Virtual Reality”, in Proc. VRAIS ’93.

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