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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Parallax in Halo: Visual Realism and Video Games

Besides creating PictureBubbles° and designing things, I spend some of my free time gaming. While playing Halo 3 recently, I was feeling a bit disconnected from the experience and wondering how it would be possible to increase the level of realism in a “first-person shooter” like Halo. In the game, it is possible to change the direction that the player’s character is facing independently of the character’s movement in 3D space. While rotating the character’s head, however, there is no apparent parallax. That is, all stationary objects in the environment have no movement relative to each other while the character’s head (the camera) pans. Assuming for the sake of argument that Master Chief and the Arbiter (playable characters in the game) both have stereoscopic vision, and therefore depth perception, it would be impossible for either character to turn their head and not see some apparent movement.

This is a bit of a nitpicky detail, of course. But at PictureBubbles°, our spherical panoramic photography sits entirely on a foundation of parallax elimination. If we were unable to eliminate parallax during camera pans, objects in the PictureBubbles° would appear ghosted or doubled where the photographs’ edges failed to line up perfectly. In order to eliminate that parallax error, we carefully calibrate our panoramic tripod heads in order to rotate the camera about the entrance pupil of the lens. Perhaps we’d get a little deeper into the uncanny valley if more slight imperfections were introduced into first-person games, such as parallax, slight random movements like swaying or wind, and lighting changes due to clouds moving, etc.

posted by Josh Korwin at 5:56 pm  

Monday, July 6, 2009

NYU Gallatin LEED website

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When we at PictureBubbles° start a new project, creating the full 360° by 180° panoramic photographs is only half the battle (or half the fun, really); where our panos really shine are in the context of a complete virtual tour of an environment. These tours allow us to leverage interactive web technology, most notably Adobe Flash, as we create photographic experiences that tell a story.

Over the past year we had the opportunity to develop such an experience for New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. The school’s home base was recently renovated and received LEED Gold Certification for the environmentally-friendly practices used in the planning and construction of the new floors. After photographing the spaces and stitching everything together, we created a website and tour interface that really ties the room together (quoth Lebowski). A visitor need only click on a “hotspot” to bring up a sticky-note with more information about the feature underneath.

Flash is a technology that can easily be misused or abused, but its richness now permits just about everything to be done through a web browser. Thanks to Flash-based panorama / virtual tour software, we’re able to create completely custom interactive hotspots that make a panorama more than just a picture. With text, images, animation, sound, and video, the possibilities are pretty much limitless. But for the sake of accessibility and SEO (Search Engine Optimization), we also make sure to provide much of the same content in an HTML-based context.

posted by Josh Korwin at 4:12 pm  

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