Spheree The 3D Snow Globe Breakthrough
Written by David Conrad   
Saturday, 30 August 2014

This approach to 3D projection could be the technology we have been waiting for. Multiple pico-projectors are used to create a seamless 3D experience. 

There are lots of approaches to creating 3D displays, but Spheree is a new approach to projecting a realistic model. It uses a spherical projection surface and an array of pico-projectors in place of one or two large high power projectors.

The trick is all in the software - you might have guessed that - which automatically calibrates the projectors to produce an even display with no blind spots or other distortions. The whole assembly is light, low-power and doesn't need any special optics - the pico-projectors are unmodified. 

 

spheree2

 

The software can make use of multiple projectors and scales to much larger spheres than shown in the video. So far the team, from the University of São Paulo and the University of British Columbia, have tested a 20-inch diameter sphere using eight pico-projectors which allowed the viewer to interact with 1:1 "human sized" objects. A smaller 7 inch sphere using four projectors can be held in the hand  allowing a closer interaction. 

A single video camera tracks the viewer and the Spheree and the software works out how the 3D model should be rendered to give the correct perspective view given the relative positions. The rendered object also shows movement parallax, occlusion and changes in shading. 

The video gives a good impression of how it all works:

 

In addition to experimenting with the display, the user has also been able to interact with the object using gestures or a stylus. Most intriguingly interaction can be via moving the Spheree. 

Of course, the big disadvantage of this display is that it is only optimized for one viewer. The team has plans to experiment with bigger walk-in in spheres and with stereoscopic projectors for multi-person viewing.

Spheree was presented at this year's SIGGRAPH and attendees were allowed to try it out. To quote the team:

"Participants at Siggraph will have a magical experience with Spheree, demonstrating its use in a 3D design workflow environment."

Wish I'd been there. Perhaps next year...

 

spheree1

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