When Aaron Rasmussen, founder of Protagonist LLC and maker of the Atlas real-space virtual reality
machine, says that this is “year zero of virtual reality”, he has a point. Between the fundraising success
of the Oculus Rift
virtual reality headset (as well as support from developers and the likes of Valve
) and intriguing related projects such as the Omni multidirectional VR treadmill
, it’s been a groundbreaking time for the evolution of gaming.
Rasmussen’s company is seeking funds on Kickstarter
for a virtual reality product called Atlas that maps and “paints” your real-world environment to create a virtual world (or battlefield, as it were)--not unlike the holodeck from Star Trek.
Atlas uses chest-mounted optical tracking, accelerometers, and gyros to locate and orient you in a real space; using your iPhone camera, markers placed in a real-world environment, and a headset such as the Oculus Rift (and a controller such as the Razer Hydra), you also see a virtual world that you can actually walk around in and interact with.
The system interacts with a gaming laptop via WiFi, and Protagonist LLC offers a Unity asset to devs to integrate it with games.
Protagonist has done a lot of good work so far, it seems, but the company needs money--$125,000, to be exact--to manufacture the chest mounts and markers and improve its hardware and integration tools. There’s clearly a lot of work yet to do; this is very much in the prototype phase, and integration with games and other devices appears to be less than simple.
Still, all you need to know you can infer from a child’s reaction in the Kickstarter video: “You’re supposed to be a tree,” she tells an adult after she tests out the Atlas rig and removes the Oculus Rift headset. “Did it feel pretty real?”, he asks. Instead of answering him directly, she simply says, “I wanna go back.”