Words Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla First published in Speed January 2015
THERE ARE FEW MOMENTS IN CINEMA THAT CAN TOP TOM CRUISE FIGHTING PRE-CRIME IN MINORITY REPORT BY USING HIS FINGERS ON A VIRTUAL REALITY DESKTOP. HOW ABOUT TONY STARK DESIGNING THE MK III ARMOR IN 3D IN IRON MAN?
The idea that we can use gestures and advanced interfaces to manipulate data, pinch to zoom into 3D images, and let fingers virtually grasp and hold objects isn’t too far-fetched. Real-world applications that let us perform those tasks are just around the corner—or are they?
The next big thing?
While we’re still mired in the world of keyboards and mice, and slowly moving toward touchscreen devices, it seems nearly impossible for us to really make the jump into virtual reality. But is VR really the next big thing? Facebook fell all over itself to purchase Oculus Rift, a gaming-focused VR device. Sony has their own version of this, called Project Morpheus. And various other companies are rushing to market with some VR-inspired device or technology. After HD, Blu-ray, 3D, and 4K, the next immersive technology has to stretch the boundaries of physics and put us, the users, in the middle of the experience. But it can’t be expensive or limited to high-end devices. VR needs to be ubiquitous.
I had the opportunity to see a conceptual execution of VR for the masses. A company called Cordon has an Indiegogo project called Pinć (as in pinch). The solution is an Apple iPhone 6 Plus case that transforms into a wearable headset that runs an app. There are also finger cuffs that double as pointers and mice. Pinć, as demoed to me, was pretty crude. The case was built quickly using a 3D printer, so it was quite bulky. But as a prototype, it served its purpose well. Pinć OS isn’t just VR. It is also augmented reality, so simply moving one’s head enables navigating freely within the interface. Just like with a regular desktop, you can see various windows and apps that can be accessed via finger sensors.
Control, portability, and use case—these are the three barriers that have supposedly been making VR hard to accomplish. The engineers that created Pinć hope to address these once funding for their platform is secured by way of crowdfunding. Control has been covered by the LED finger rings as well as the iPhone 6 Plus’ motion sensors and gyroscope that work together to create a virtual user interface that overlie on the real-world view. Portability of Pinć is enabled by the case form factor, which is still within an acceptable size for carrying despite being bulky and thick. As for use cases, Pinć is being tested as a platform and will have its own developer kit. Uses for the product include retail, where you can examine a product in 3D as if it were in a store display. This also works for choosing clothing, and mixing and matching tops with pants and accessories.
Of course, the biggest draw for VR is gaming, even in mobile devices. So, it will definitely be interesting to see how Pinć VR exploits this market, which is crying out for new innovation. Using a smartphone as the conduit for VR isn’t new. Samsung has done it. And even Google’s Project Cardboard seems to be in tune with this idea. I personally think there’s a definite advantage using existing phones and phablets because these have the sensors, and screen and camera requirements in one device. With all these possibilities and developments, I can’t wait to see where VR will take us next.