The kids may be dreaming of weird motorized hamsters, but you're dreaming of pwning your friends with a railgun on a hulking, immersive gaming PC. Well, this is your year, l33t gamer. Meet the Ostendo CRVD monitor.
This thing is made out of three curved flatscreens, knitted together seamlessly into one windshield-like enclosure with 2880 x 900 resolution. That's probably about 200% wider than the screen that's sitting on your desk right now, about 43 inches from corner to corner, or 3.5 feet.
The company says that the curved display is easier on the eyes, since the focal distance to any point on the screen stays roughly the same. With a dual-monitor setup, apparently, your eyes strain to make up for the disparity in distance between the center of your displays and the far edges. But this isn't just about gaming, Ostendo claims; the company cites some research (PDF) from a Master's student at Virginia Tech that says that curved displays make workers more productive. (Below, a research subject from that study, doing a map-search task on a curved display array.)
Of course, the Ostendo is child's play compared to the display that stole the show at last year's Gamers' Development Conference. This is the EuroTouch Z-Dome, below, a glass sphere that has been cut in half and made to receive an image from a high-definition projector. The effect is complete immersion, and complete bankruptcy: the Z-Dome is an eight-foot-tall, $15,000 package that needs to be custom built. (Photo courtesy of IGN.)
Before the Z-Dome, one of gaming's hottest prospects was the ill-fated mid-2000s Sharp 3-D monitor, which claimed not to need special glasses to render its effects. The aptly-named LL-151-3D monitor, as Sharp called it, was a 15-inch enclosure equipped with two LCD panels sandwiched together. The rearmost of the two panels would distribute the light from the backlight, while the front panel would catch it and display the actual image. Supposedly, the rear panel was distributing two different "columns" of light, slightly off-set for each of your eyes; the idea was that the parallax between the two displays would create a three-dimensional effect in your brain. That's is true if you're seated in the correct spot. Move your head a few inches one way or another, and you lose the 3-D effect. (More recent 3D technologies have since gone back to trusty glasses. Samsung makes a reasonably good 3-D flatscreen, which is meant to be paired with Nvidia's 3D glasses.)
But there was another problem with the Sharp: because it was "splitting" its pixels between your two eyes, each only sees half the screen's resolution: 512 x 768, a pitifully low-quality image to our modern sensibilities. This would account for low sales of the 3-D laptop they introduced around the same time. Though the two-hour battery and 12-pound girth may have had something to do with its failure, too.
Some HD-enthusiasts weren't waiting around for display technology to get serious. In 2007, one of them took matters into his own hands and created something he calls the KSS, or Kipnis Studio Standard. While not gaming-specific, Jeremy Kipnis' theater is probably the ballsiest entertainment system going, with an 18-foot projection screen powered by a Sony SRX-S110 ultra-high-res digital projector. It's also got a few speakers: 16 subwoofers, three center boxes, dozens of mids and tweeters, and 11,000 watts of power, to be precise. The former audio engineer and producer, who lives in Redding, Connecticut, spent $6 million getting it right.
Of course, he's also created a living room vaguely reminiscent of Attack of the Clones, but Kipnis, who plans on replicating his system for others, says all the equipment can be crammed behind the screen for a cleaner effect.
The Ostendo monitor is looking much more doable now, isn't it? Compared to solutions past, you don't need any special hardware to run the CRVD monitor—except of course a beefy video card that can handle such big resolution. And if all you're planning on doing is edit 14 Microsoft Office documents simultaneously, your current hardware setup will probably suffice. But if you're going to indulge in this $6500 monolith, you may as well get some badass hardware to power it. Ten years ago, it would have been one of these beasts from the still-new elite gaming company Alienware, since acquired by Dell. Top-priced machines ($2900) came packing 2.0 GHz Pentium 4 chips and 60GB hard drives, and a 22-inch CRT monitor by NEC could be added for almost $800.
Believe it or not, Ostendo's 43-inch curved masterpiece isn't even the most X-treme monitor on the market. There is also this thing: a 75-inch monstrosity called the Zenview Powerscape Ultra Elite. It's one 30-inch display at the center, flanked by four (yes, four) 20-inchers on the sides. It may not be curved and seamless like the Ostendo, but it's 12 million pixels (and $4600). If you're being economical, there are other, cheaper monster displays like this 43-inch NEC.
Sold? You'd better add a new desk to your shopping list, too. These displays all weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. Sure, you'll be in traction just carrying this thing up your front steps. But at least you'll have something to play with while you convalesce.
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