Virtual Reality For Real Life Budgets

THE RACE INTO VIRTUAL RE-ality continues apace. One hang-up has been that most of the headgear needed to create 3-D graphics has been bulky and costly--thousands of dollars per headset. This fall, Chinon America Inc., a unit of Japan's Chinon Industries Inc., hopes to broaden the market with a new headset slated to retail for less than $200.

Chinon's CyberShades look like a pair of thick sunglasses, but they sport a cable tied to the parallel printer port of a PC. Like some other head-mounted displays, the glasses' lenses are actually liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) that act as on-off shutters. Software in the computer alternately displays the left and right sides of stereoscopic image pairs as fast as the monitor will allow. With the headset's shutters synchronized to that cycle, the viewer sees an illusion of 3-D.

What applications does Chinon have in mind? Officials at the Torrance (Calif.) company say the goggles should spawn a wave of 3-D computer games. But they also may be useful in viewing architectural drawings, training drivers, and adding depth to existing programs.

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