TDVision Systems Inc. CEO Interviewed!

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It is with great pleasure that we announce that TDVision Systems Inc., makers of leading Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) and stereoscopic 3D (S-3D) video camera solutions, has agreed to help sponsor this MTBS BLOG section. I had the privilege of interviewing their CEO, Mr. Manuel Gutierrez Novelo. He spoke of their exciting product line-up, and the different software initiatives his company is involved with.

1. Manuel, before we talk about your company, when did you get interested in stereoscopic 3D and why?

Well, we all know the ViewMaster, and I was a little kid, about 9, when I got one of them as a present. It came with a dolphin theme disk and I was impressed about the way the images looked. At that same time, there was a TV series called Flipper, and I compared the image to that on the ViewMaster. The difference was incredible! So I asked my parents: Why is it that Flipper doesn’t look as real as the ViewMaster? And that’s how my first interest in 3D started.

I have always been involved with software and hardware, since I was 13 (apple IIe) and I always got a technology profile (geek). 3D was always part of some of my questions, about compatibility, quality, bandwidth, and all I knew back then was based on filters, polarizers, shutter screens, but nothing was truly 3D compatible, nothing was portable enough, nothing was realistic.

Then I went to University and got my Electrical Engineering degree, and founded a few companies. Over years, I talked to my wife about how 3D wasn’t there yet, and after what I had learned, I was convinced that I was able to do it the right way, with a completely new approach - radically different from all the other existing 3D technologies. After a few searches with patent attorneys, we decided to start TDVision.

2. Fill me in on TDVision Systems Inc. When and how did it get started, and describe your company as it stands today.

We started in 2001 in Mexico and opened our offices in USA in 2004. So far, we are all friends, family, and angel investors from the USA, Europe, and Mexico. We have grown exponentially, and we have achieved incredible results over the last two years. We have an unparalleled team, and our digital technology has proven to be the only true 3D HD portable multipurpose and backwards compatible technology in the world.

3. We are seeing S-3D solutions in the form of HDTV, desktop monitors, LCD shutter glasses, projectors, and more. In your opinion, what are the key advantages of Head Mounted Display solutions?

We can mention 3 main advantages of our HMD:

a) True 3D: When we see images in our real world, we don’t use filters, lenticular films, field sequential or shutter glasses. The way we see is by two continuous, uninterrupted, flicker free unpolarized video streams at a very high resolution. That’s exactly what we’re doing with our TDVisor, and we believe it’s the most natural way to provide stereo images to the eyes. We have also statistically proven that our specific optics array and implementation does not cause any side effects.

b) Portability: Your cellphone, your iPod, your laptop - they all obey a portable need, and so does our TDVisor. If you mix it with the "be anywhere, do anything" concept, then you can play, work, entertain, and interact in in a truly immersed 3D environment, creating an Alternative Universe. We call it the "AlterSpace".

c) Low cost: Compared to an equivalent screen of the same size (72in @ 10ft for SVGA and 108in @ 10 ft for HD).

4. What criteria separates one HMD apart from another?

Resolution, equivalent screen size (field of view), contrast, weight, ergonomics and style.

5. In your opinion, what challenges have most HMD solutions faced up until today?

To remove the bulky stigma, and increase the resolution.

6. Tell us about your TDVisor solutions. What technical challenges have you faced and overcome?

With every iteration of our TDVisor, we strive to enhance each one of the key characteristics and get a perfect balance for the user.

Our two models, TDVisor SVGA and TDVisor HD, are at the high end resolution wise, wide field of view, low weight (6oz), and we recognize that we need to work on the ergonomics and style. All this has become part of our evolution, and part of our technological roadmap and priorities.

7. You have more than one HMD option. What are their specs? In particular, can you elaborate on resolution, field of view, weight, and refresh rate if applicable?

TDVisor SVGA 800x600. 72" @ 10ft, 6oz
TDVisor HD (1280x768 16:9 and 1024x768 4:3). 108" @ 10ft, 9oz

8. What hardware is best suited for your TDVisor HMD solutions?

PCs with Intel CoreDuo and an nVidia video card.

9. How much do the TDVisors cost?

TDVisor SVGA: $1,000
TDVisor HD: $ 1,500

10. You know we are big video game players here at MTBS. Can you name some titles that work really well with your solution?

To enable 3D we have two options:

a) Modify the game by integrating our TDVirutalCam SDK
b) Using existing nVidia OpenGL and DirectX stereo capabilities and/or using the nVidia stereo support

Several games have been tested right out of the box and they work well with the existing stereo compatibility like:

Rainbow Six Vegas
Snoopy VS Red Baron
Meet the Robinsons
World of Warcraft
Warcraft 3
Quake 4
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War Demo
Eve Online
Just Cause
Titan Quest

We encourage you to test the immersive effect, it is really impressive.

11. You do more than HMDs! Tell me about your TDVCam, what is it exactly?

Our technology platform supports video streams as well as computer generated content either in real time or pre-rendered. In order to acquire video and still pictures in true 3D, we developed our TDVCam, an HD MPEG compatible camera that allows you to capture our real world, encode it and see it in our applications, either AlterSpace or DejaView.

12. What resolution and format does it record in?

For video it’s HD 720p and SD 480, and for still images it’s 10MP and 5MP.

13. Do you need a TDVisor to see the content, or will it work with other S-3D solutions too?

You can see the content with any independent LR (left, right) based stereo display.

14. When would this camera be most appropriate to use? Who do you see buying it?

Consumer Electronics, home, personal, advertising, product shots, video conferences, practically the same usage as existing camcorders, but in true 3D High Definition.

Something very interesting happens when you acquire your own videos in 3D with our TDVCam. When you see them a month later, you feel like you’re there again, like a Dejavu, and that’s why we called our video player DejaView.

15. What media does it store recordings on, and how much can it record without running out of memory?

4GB and 8GB SD Cards. Depending on the resolution profile it can go from 30 minutes up to 2 hours of true 3D video.

16. How do you edit content once it is recorded? Is a means to do this already in existence?

You treat this as any other video for non-linear editing purposes. Right now you just need to take some specific considerations since our TDVCodec is in constant evolution. We’re planning to have plug-ins for every Non Linear Editing (NLE) software package.

17. How much does it cost?

Right now the camera is $10,000 US.

18. What is the difference between 3D emulation and 3D simulation, and how does it tie in with TDVision Inc.?

3D Emulation duplicates the functions of our vision system in a very accurate manner whereas 3D simulation just imitates some key characteristics.

We are a 3D emulation technology because our platform imitates the way our eyes and brain work in a very natural way: Dynamic convergence, dynamic focusing, real and proportional perspective projection, true 3D continuous video streams, and High Definition among other things.

Other 3D simulation technologies just focus on providing different images (LR) to each eye but they use optical methods that are not natural to the human eye like field sequential, shutter glasses, filters, lenticular screens, and polarizers.

19. You have a software side too. What is "Alterspace", and what does it do?

It’s like a game engine enhanced with TDVision features. You can use it to interactively visualize 3D environments, for entertainment watching 3D videos and work in your applications.

The AlterSpace as a concept is like a convergence point, an enabler, like the door to an alternate space. Through software, it allows you to load 3D cg environments created on 3DSMax with our TDVPlugin. You can load applications, work, play, and interact immersed in a true S-3D environment. You can explore in a game-like environment, and every single item looks just like in real life.

The TDVirtualCam is used to provide you with the dynamic convergence angle emulating the way you see in real life so it’s very comfortable and natural to the eye. Inside the AlterSpace, you can also watch true 3D videos in our floating plasmas. First you visualize your content in a guide with previews, and once you’ve selected the video, you can go full screen to see it in HD.

We are constantly adding new features to our AlterSpace, and soon you will be able to do everything like 3D Videoconferencing, chat, IPTV, and launch applications and games. You’ll feel like you’ve been somewhere else, but you haven’t moved from your were at the AlterSpace.

20. Is this software only available for TDVision solutions, or will it work with other S-3D hardware too?

It will also work with any independent LR display.

21. I understand you are working with Sun Microsystems too! Tell me about "Project Looking Glass", what is it and how are you involved?

The Looking Glass initiative is a complete 3D User Interface, and it makes a lot of sense when you present it in true S-3D. Browse your database, files, take a tour in your corporate headquarters or campus, just as if you were really there.

22. What platforms does it work on? Windows, Linux, Solaris, Mac OS?

Windows, and we’ll support them all in the near future.

23. You have the TDVisor, the TDVcam, and more than one software solution at work here. How does it all work together? What’s your vision on this?

As you can see, we have successfully implemented the complete ecosystem from acquisition, computer generation, encoding, decoding, and visualization for true S-3D digital HD visualization. We envision our technology applied to entertainment, sports, video games, online gaming, 3D environments, and GUI and CAD applications.

24. There is a lot happening in our industry right now. What events excite you the most and why?

A few years ago when TDVision started development, there was virtually no support for stereo from game companies and hardware manufacturers. Now in 2007, we have organizations like "Meant to be Seen" that are actively promoting the mass adoption of 3D gaming technology. This sort of grassroots organization can let the gamers voice be heard and it is clearly working!

The idea that people from all over the world that want 3D now can demand hardware support as well as best practice 3D coding standards is exciting and trend setting.

25. You have clearly demonstrated technical advances for the HMD and S-3D industry with your products. Now comes the hardest question in this interview. If a genie appeared and offered you three wishes, with the exception of selling millions and millions of TDVisors and TDVcams, what three things would you ask for to help move the S-3D industry ahead?

a. If we can leverage our unique advances in the field of stereoscopic 3D to help raise awareness of stereo as a whole, that would be great! For the past 60 years, people have been watching TV, gaming, and visualizing in 2D. That is not the way that we as humans really see. No matter how large the television, no matter how high the definition, it will never be true to life without depth. When the average person realizes this and compare the difference, they will demand 3D.

b. Support of major hardware and software manufacturers. If large companies have the forward vision to commit resources to making S-3D standards and applications a reality, then it will make it less of an uphill battle. Content drives development, and development drives content. If we could all work together with no reservations and trust in the power of S-3D, then it’s the user and the companies that support S-3D that will benefit.

c. All I want is to change the world by promoting the mass adoption of our S-3D technology. If we can satisfy the first two wishes then I will give the third to the Genie. He may want to use it to free himself and enjoy our high definition TDVisor with an MTBS certified game!

Special thanks to TDVision Systems Inc. for helping support our industry, and joining forces with iZ3D to help fund MTBS with an unrestricted education grant.

TDVision Systems Inc. staff have made themselves available to answer your questions. Post comments and ask questions HERE.