Russian startup Nettle is showcasing a holographic gaming set-up at Disrupt SF’s Hardware Alley costing $28,000. The Nettlebox, as its called, consists of a 3D plasma display, with four fisheye lens infrared cameras at the corners to track the position of the gamer who then wears a pair of 3D glasses with two onboard infrared lights.
The game itself is powered by a Windows operating system built into the table. The set up plays artifice with your brain and fakes it into seeing a real-time holographic image of the game as you play it. The holographic scenery appears sunken into the table, rather than standing above the surface. But, importantly, the 3D illusion is sustained as you change your position so you can move around to get the best vantage point on the game. Co-founder Andrei Desyatov said “With this technology users can see a 3D screen from all viewpoints, from all angles, and see a 3D object in front of him. The brain believes that it’s a real object because the illusion is very strong…We are tracking the user’s position very fast.” The hardware behind Nettlebox’s proprietary cameras operate at 1,000 fps. That high frame rate is a requirement to enable a “stable illusion” when the user changes their physical position. The camera range, which is the distance between the user and the table, is up to around 1.5 meters in a brightly lit environment, but can extend up to 5 meters when using the Nettlebox in darker rooms, according to Desyatov. At a cost of $28,000 the Nettlebox itself is not about to become the next step forward in home video gaming, (Personally I think we saw the start of that with ANKI at WWDC this year) but Nettle is targeting this device at the presentation/exhibition market and real-estate companies on developing showroom/presentation use cases by, for instance, allowing architects to walk around a hologram of a model building.
Pushing the Nettlebox into the home gaming market is going to require some monumental downsizing of its hefty price but Desyatov reckons it will be possible to build something that is “affordable for most users.” Nettle launched the Nettlebox in Russia a few months ago. It has currently got five customers and is looking to expand that customer base internationally, eyeing up the U.S. market. “We’re thinking about looking for external funding to increase the speed of entering the gaming industry.” Andrei Desyatov said