We’ve seen quite a few non-mainstream displays get some mileage out of the arcade business. Vector monitors, stereoscopic 3D, transparent LCDs, large touchscreens, dome screens and more. That is one benefit of a business that can introduce certain technologies that may not be ready for home or may never be feasible outside of amusement.
At the moment, VR is the big thing in the news. Based on that, here is a quote from arcade game designer Eugene Jarvis about the tech that I posted to our Facebook page recently:
“A group of us broke off and set out to develop a VR game, however we eventually became disenchanted with the poor resolution, brightness, color saturation, and update rate of the current generation of headset displays. After a period of excitement and hype, you were left with a headache. Binocular stereo displays can also be fatiguing to the eyes, because you have the depth parallax without the proper focusing depth of field. What we really need are real-time electronically controlled holographic displays.
We also realized that for public performance, the fear of cooties, of putting your head in something 27 million other sweaty people used, would be a deterrent. And all the early VR games were really lame, which turned a lot of people off.”
– Eugene Jarvis – discussing his adventures in VR ~1991.
Science fiction has long dealt with the use of holographic technology. That in turn has spurned a number of psuedo-holographic developments in the arcade industry: Atari’s Triple Hunt and Asteroids Deluxe are fine examples of using a monitor reflected off a half-silvered mirror and with real graphics behind that to create a unique effect. Taito stepped that up with games like Darius and Wyvern F-0. Sega created a well known game that used bent mirrors and glass to create a unique pseudo-holographic effect in their Holosseum game. Other augmented reality games have also approached that but we don’t need to cover all of them.
Thanks to a comment by Adam Coate regarding that quote by Mr. Jarvis above, I was pointed in the direction of a new display technology that is worth talking about – the Voxiebox
The Voxiebox Volumetric Display by Voxon Photonics
First, the Voxiebox is an emerging display technology that is looking to fulfill the promise of providing true 3D displays. The non-nerdy way to say it is “holograms”. I could go on about it but this video has already been produced to explain the tech. It’s one of those things that is better to see than to hear about:
The tech is currently capable of displaying monochromatic (but higher resolution) 3D objects or full color objects. The files to create color objects can use texture maps for detail. The entire display area can be filled with particles (which would just appear as a cube of light) and at the moment they can do 30 volumes per second (volumes being the full draw area – the current speed is why it has some flicker). The displays come with their own computer and sound system.
Voxiebox Arcade Edition
I reached out to Voxon Photonics about this and to my great surprise, they already are working on creating an arcade/amusement form factor of the Voxiebox. What you saw above is cool but it is a bit small for what arcades tend to use.
While no release date is available, I was provided these details as to what to expect:
*A new version to be provided as a development kit reduces the size of the box while increasing the size of the display area. “The arcade machine projection volume will be larger again.”
*The hardware has been thoroughly tested to be able to withstand the stresses that occur in an arcade setting. It can also interface with “any controls or input device – we’ve used an Ultimarc I-PAC for arcade controls.”
*I asked about technical support as that is often a major question arcade operators have with new tech. “In the case of a break down, we would send out any replacement parts as required. Installing them would not be difficult for someone with basic technical skills.”
*Regarding their R&D for future form factors: “The current generation runs at 30VPS, which we are treating as minimum viable product. Our focus in R&D and future improvements in VPS, color, size etc. will be determined by feedback from our community of developers and early adopters.”
*I asked about anyone in the industry who has looked into the tech and found this response very interesting: “Yes, we have had quite a few people from the arcade/amusement sector approach us. We have had interest from a number of game developers in the sector. We had one company who want to embed a Voxiebox in a pinball machine. We’ve also had a couple of large arcade chains approach us.“
Pseduo-Holograms in pinball isn’t foreign when you remember Pinball 2000. Having real holograms on the playfield though, that would be something.
*No pricing has been released yet. It “will be on par with some of the high end 4kHD TVs.”
So there you have it! My thanks to Voxon to providing these details. You can check out the Voxiebox website here.
What do you think of this technology and it’s potential for out-of-home amusement?