3D Technology and Motion Control: Influences on Reality

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After I saw Avatar in 3D  I thought to myself, "Wow! The visuals were spectacular!" I saw Avatar in 2D on Blu-Ray and left the room saying to myself, "Wow! The visuals were spectacular!" Moving from 3D to 2D, the movie was no less pleasing to the eye. The measure of 3D's worth is when a movie is re-experienced without the technology and unless the differences are so remarkable 3D becomes a necessity, its just a toy filmmakers like to show and tell. After the presentation, the class leaves noting its appeal, but are more entertained by the pet rabbit. The audience will always be an observer of movies, no matter how close they feel to the action. 3D is more suitable for video games–by manipulating depth perception, the interactivity with games can increase, nearly combining reality and the fiction on screen.

The history of video games can be described as a long attempt to push the player into the screen, lessen the distance between the gamer and the world they interact with. The player is miles apart from Space Invaders. There's the console and controller, buttons that control the action, and then there's what's on the screen: tiny sprites that represent a spaceship and aliens. But gamers have seen Apollo 13 and it's not the same as what's on the screen. There the disconnect between gamer and the world they play with.

But games get more detailed–a greater reflection of the world we live in. Unlike its counterparts like Mario and Sonic, Mortal Kombat removed the cartoon graphics and actually formed characters and settings that looked real, using digitzed footage and stop motion, from the movement of the characters to the joyful expression on Kano's face after breaking Sonya Blade's back. I think Congress had a reason to be concerned about the game's violence during the early 90s, considering the certain realism brought to the characters. But we're so far along with video games, the graphics of the original Mortal Kombat may not resonate with gamers as it did back then.

Mortal Kombat

In this generation, we're not looking at abysmal live action movies like in the original Resident Evil, but environments are realistic in the sense the design is detail and the physics are remarkably like our own. Gamers may not relate to the polygon, blocked shapes of Final Fantasy 7 anymore–in my senior in high school a friend play the game for the first time and hated the graphics–but Lightning in Final Fantasy 13 or Nathan Drake in Uncharted are more pleasing to look at, mostly because they are designed and move like actual people.

Content on the screen is fixed; the gamer has a visual treat. Actual interactivity with games is the next step. So developers go from wired controllers to wireless controllers. Gamers can move throughout their room, get into comfortable positions, pass controllers to friends without tangling wires, they can get as close or as far away from the screen as they want. Nintendo takes advantage of this free motion with the Wii Mote.

There are still buttons, you even have the option to use a controller, but the joy of the Wii is in actually whacking a tennis ball with your hand, or rolling a bowling ball across a lane. With Project Natal, your body is  the controller. And that's a mechanical description for a very human and organic existence. With Microsoft's controller-free peripheral, we ourselves become technology.

Playstation Move

With 3D, images pop out of the screen and characters interact with you. Manipulating depth perception creates the idea that gamers are actually in the world, reinforced by the movement of your body and your voice. Is this simulated reality? The 3D technology we might see at E3 may be rudimentary–we're still looking at objects from a screen–but if this is the trend of gaming, if controllers are put down and the body is the key component to a game, integrating 3D and motion control can lead to something in the next one or two generations.

Of course, these obvious and plain thoughts come from observation and imagination–nothing I have said, if it is not already red and large on the screen for the reader to see, comes from an expert of technology. But the imagination can run wild, as the saying goes: years ago we were limited by technology, now our only limit is what we can imagine.

The question is whether or not you feel comfortable with being a part of a game's world–stepping out of one reality and into another. At the moment, less than 10 percent of gamers plan to buy Microsoft's Natal or Sony's Move. Interests may change after E3 this week as more information will be presented. Nevertheless, integrating 3D and motion control almost feels that the mechanical and the flesh have combined, like planting a microchip in the brain.

It is very Ghost in the Shell; very reminiscent of the .hack series, where you log in to a game and may never log out. It will be fascinating to see where 3D technology and motion control leads to. As obsolence settles in, computer scientists may build upon these projects. What new issues could come from these two pieces of technology? What role can simulated reality play in equality, politics, the economy, and education?

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