My name is Greg Krathwohl. I graduated from Middlebury College this spring, majoring in Computer Science and Economics. Before coming north to Vermont, I grew up in Ipswich, Massachusetts. I enjoy coding, running, adventuring, and making maps. Every day at IrisVR, I’m learning more about architectural modeling and 3D graphics, but my first interest in stereoscopic 3D started about 10 years ago, when first discovered the Magic Eye books. I quickly mastered the technique of diverging my eyes to see the magical 3D image, and began to experiment with how they worked, creating my own little scenes in Microsoft Paint. Since learning about how stereo vision works, I started taking 3D pictures - a left image, and a right one a few inches away. To see the full effect, put the images next to each other and diverge your eyes in the same way that you view a Magic Eye. I was anticipating the day when we had the technology to revisit these scenes without this headache inducing technique. I was first introduced to programming at Middlebury. I was fascinated by how coding could create anything. I learned how computer vision could be used to identify edges in a image, or find shapes, or pick out objects. Or, most amazingly, how multiple views of an object could be used to recreate its 3D geometry. I spent last summer assisting research for Professor Scharstein, known in the world of stereo vision for his stereo vision benchmarks. We worked on capturing scenes (random objects placed on a table) to create high resolution depth maps.
On the top floor of a beautifully renovated old mill building building in Cambridge, the mere mention of the term virtual reality conjures up images of devices more closely resembling Darth Vader’s helmet than a pair of ski goggles or sunglasses in the minds of most of the architects in the room. The skeptical faces of those around the conference table increasingly show gleams of intrigue as my colleague Shane plugs the Oculus Rift into his computer and pulls up a model in SketchUp or Revit. Without too much introduction, he shows off the model on the 2D screen and then invites someone to sit in the “driver’s seat.” Immediately after donning the pre-release virtual reality headset hardware, the first tester reaches out to touch one of the walls, points at a rafter, a skylight, and remarks about all of the interesting architectural features overhead. I love witnessing this reaction to the experience because it means that the user is fully immersed, walking through a specially realistic representation of the digital model that they just saw on screen. This is how most of our presentations go, to industry professionals and friends alike, at IrisVR. There is nothing quite like stepping out of reality and into a world that only existed in your mind or on a screen moments prior. One architect even stood up after trying a demonstration of the IrisVR beta software and placed his hand over his heart stating that he felt as though he had just walked into a building that he designed for the first time. In the case of this passionate architect and designer, the joy of experiencing his own creation made him feel “butterflies in his stomach.” I was quick to joke that virtual reality sometimes causes motion sickness, especially when using today’s early hardware models that have not yet been perfected. At the same time, the current technology is good enough to show the promise of virtual reality (VR) in the not-so-distant future.