Winscape: Virtual reality windows are here

[From the Mother Nature Network’s Green Tech blog by Karl Burkart; a 2:20 minute video is here]

Winscape: Virtual reality windows are here

Who needs nature when you can have virtual reality windows that simulate any setting with the flick of an iPhone app?

Fri, Apr 30 2010

At first I thought this was a fake video, albeit a super-cool one. But in actuality it is totally real … well in the virtual sense of the word. Call it trompe l’oeil for the 21st century — Winscape can create the illusion that your living room windows look out over the Golden Gate Bridge, a coral reef or even the moon.

RationalCraft, a DIY design company founded by San Jose-based engineer Ryan Hoagland, developed the idea for Winscape more than five years ago. Now with the advent of affordable plasma TV screens and a powerful Mac Pro computer, the Winscape software is ready for prime time.

The software program interprets your movement in a room via an LED necklace which is read by a Wii remote. The data is conveyed to the computer (hidden in the wall somewhere) which fluidly adjusts the perspective of the image relative to your position, creating the very convincing illusion that two built-in plasma TV’s turned on end are actually windows.

The image is essentially a looped video image. Given the immense data processing required to do this in realtime, I would imagine the loop has to be pretty short, but one can imagine that with increasingly powerful hard drives, you could have lengthier videos that truly trick your mind into thinking your home is floating in space or anchored at sea.

There has been so much hype around all the augmented reality apps for the iPhone, but the Winscape software really turns the phrase on its ear, literally reinventing the reality outside your “window.” The drawback … it can only ever work for one person at a time (maybe two if you are really cozy) but the implications, especially in terms of virtual reality gaming, are pretty mind-blowing.

Maybe if futurist James Lovelock is correct and we lose 80 percent of all biological life on Earth as a result of climate change, we could at least simulate the once epic and colorful landscapes of planet earth c. 2010.

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