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The Dawn of Virtual Reality GUIs

Imagine walking through a dark hallway, similar to an aquarium, with a wall of glowing video screens stacked three high. The videos extend as far as you can see, and when you touch a screen that interests you, it expands and begins to play. Sounds like magic, doesn’t it? It’s real, and it’s available for your browser right now.

When Nvidia called me and invited me to their NVISION conference next month, I thought, "Hmmm, I sure hope they have some cool video games because a conference about graphics chips doesn’t sound too buzzworthy." To make sure I wasn’t going to spend three days listening to speeches about the limits of silicon etching, I asked them to show me what kinds of things were happening in the world of graphics – or as Nvidia calls it, the world of visual computing. What I saw might be the biggest shift in user interfaces since the GUI replaced the DOS prompt.

Companies like Cooliris are taking plain flat page views and turning them into 3-D virtual reality experiences. Instead of getting your Google image search results on a static page or browsing YouTube one video at a time, Cooliris lets you see the images and videos on a virtual interactive wall. The most amazing thing is, they've done this with a free browser plug-in that works with any site that has an RSS media feed. From my brief preview, Cooliris is just the beginning of a new wave of companies bringing virtual reality interfaces to life. The difference between our current "point and click" GUIs and the immersive experiences created by these visual computing companies is profound. Kind of like the difference between reading a book about Disneyland and actually being there.

See the Cooliris demo

Click here for more information about the NVISION conference.

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  • Donald Schwartz

    Curious. What in your view makes the Cooliris 3D. Where is the 3rd dimension which equals depth? Why do you consider Cooliris a virtual reality experience?

    Here is a definition of VR: (source:
    Virtual Reality: The term 'Virtual Reality' is used in a variety of ways but its original meaning refers to immersive virtual reality systems. In this sense, 'Virtual Reality' is a high-end user interface that involves real time 3D simulations and interactions through position and motion tracking, stereo audio and video, touch and force feedback techniques. The user's personal viewpoint is completely immersed in the virtual world. Virtual Reality is more than a traditional medium since it introduces a new way of interacting with multimedia information.

    In my view, this interface has very little to do with VR.

    Welcome your view.