Apr 19, 2010

No Windows? No Problem! Virtual Windows by Winscape

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Do you have a room in your place with no windows?
Or perhaps you have a window with a lovely view of a concrete wall or neon sign?
Maybe you’re just plain tired of that framed motivational poster talking about Courage.

Well maybe it’s time to muster the courage to do something about it! Introducing Virtual Windows by Winscape. Now you can look out to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, or even explore the ocean! Check out the video below and we’ll reconnect with more extensive details afterward. See ya!


- Custom Winscape software with configurable screen parameters
- Two HD plasma displays for great contrast and wide viewing angles
- Video playback resolution of 1920×1080 with sound
- Still-image resolution of 4096×4096
- Fully embedded in the wall for aesthetics and silent operation
- Tracking of one person in the room for proper perspective presentation
- Scheduled on/off
- iPhone and web control of sleep/wake/scene selection

As a demo version this is pretty slick. Simulating a true window view is incredibly challenging as the screen needs to recognize where you are looking and adjust the scene accordingly (side to side, up and down). A fully-commercial version would require a more polished version of the hacked Wii-mote and giant sensor necklace (which was awesomely demonstrated by the baby in the video). Regardless, the idea is fantastic and presents a viable solution to homeowners wanting to spruce up their basement or replace that boring, static picture frame.



- The originator of the hacked wii-mote for tracking and other purposes is Johnny Chung Lee
- The tracking of multiple IR points is built into the Wiimote firmware. The Wiimote has a fairly well understood interface via Bluetooth thanks to the reverse engineering efforts by the internet community of enthusiasts like Johnny Chung Lee
- As a test version this option is relatively inexpensive. However, the Wiimote results are not very accurate and this impedes the illusion being presented to the viewer (thus a slicker option would be needed for a retail version)
- Winscape created a head tracking class in an OS X application that performs sanity checking on the data retrieved from the Wiimote. If the X,Y,Z data was outside of the pre-configured bounds of the room, the data would be clipped.
- Since Z data (distance to the IR points) is calculated based on the distance between X,Y data of two points, the Z data is pretty noisy. Winscape added a simple temporal filter to smooth out the Z data.
- The circuit to the left simulates a Wii sensor bar. Two clusters of IR LED emitters spread out the IR light via nine IR LEDs so that the “bar” is visible to the Wiimote from just about any normal orientation of the viewer
- A switch and red LED indicate whether the circuit is powered or not. This board hangs from the viewer’s neck like a necklace



- To display an HD video onto two different screens, one can share the Quicktime context with the OpenGL contexts so that they would all have access to the frames at the same time. This works out great and uses hardware acceleration as much as possible
- The user’s head location (provided by IR via the Wiimote) is used to calculate a proper viewing frustum in OpenGL. Since the view vector is non-orthogonal to the image plane, Winscape had to do some extra work in OpenGL. It’s just like rendering the wall of a CAVE.
- The OS X application’s preferences panel allows the user to specify the physical layout of the displays in relation to the tracker origin (Wiimote) in a table format. This way, any gaps between the displays are automatically calculated out of the rendered views and the tracking data is now in relation to the displays
- The video card in the Mac Pro supports OpenGL textures up to 4096×4096. This is great for high-res still photos, but as far as I can tell, there’s no hope for sending 4K video over the bus in real-time



- Winscape Remote is available from the iTunes App Store. This remote allows you to wake and sleep your Winscape via your WiFi network. It also allows you to advance to the next scene or select which scene you’d like to display
- All functions except Wake use your Winscape’s web server feature to control the Winscape
- The wake feature issues a Wake-On-LAN magic ethernet packet to wake up your Winscape. you can also set your Winscape to wake and sleep at pre-set times during the day

Still interested in knowing more? Feel free to check out this time-lapse ‘Making-of’ video below. Maximum respect to Winscape for the idea and build. I love seeing DIY projects like this come to life! I hope one day we see a retail version of this concept :)


If you enjoyed this article, the Sifter highly recommends: LIVING LOBBY ART – THE HP MANIFOLD BY TRONIC

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