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VR Interfaces: Minoru webcam


Overview of Minoru webcam

One of the more interesting developments to come out of a mediocre 2009 CES, was the Minoru webcam. It's a stereoscopic anaglyph recorder for home use. The camera looks like a little red person, in a design that is far from incidental - it is designed to make social interactions easier, as well as provide the 3D effect.

Rather stylish, the red leg and arms have practical purpose to them. Shown above in its 'perching' configuration, designed to be affixed to a computer monitor or partition wall, the head and 'hands' just peep over the top of the monitor, giving it a cute, cuddly look about it. If you desire to place it on a desk, the arms swivel down and the leg swivels up, the three interconnect to form a single base with a tilt able camera-head, to aid such placement.

The really clever bit thou, are the cameras. They are spaces about two inches apart, following the average interpupilary distance that most adults have - the distance between both pupils when the eyes look straight ahead.

This makes it ridiculously easy to talk to. Rather than staring into a single webcam lens, you have a camera which to your subconscious at least, feels like another person, and whose eyes are in the natural place when talking to another socially. Thus, it feels natural, and easy.

It is an anaglyph camera, using the age-old, simple approach to stereoscopy, which requires special glasses on the user's end. Specifically, anaglyph glasses, with one red and blue lens each. Five of these ship in the box,, made of card and plastic lenses. If you expect to be using it a lot, investing in some higher quality anaglyph glasses would be a good idea.

The unit ships with five pairs of anaglyph glasses, just like these.
Setting up the Minoru is a tad involved, but nothing the average user should not be able to handle. It requires a spare usb port, and has a dedicated driver, and video manipulation package. Standard webcam drivers are not compatible, because of its stereoscopic nature. The video output is run through calibration by the editing program - a calibration which you can set - before being sent as streamed output to an instant messenger client, webservice, or video recording software, as a single black and white image with red and blue 3D image offset overlays.

In order to gain the stereoscopy, it is best to sit within about a metre of the camera, else the angles begin to converge and you gain a single image anyway. The stereoscopy at this range when viewed through the glasses is crisp, and clear, with the relative distance of objects readily understood by the brain.

A caveat is the camera seems to have problems properly processing swift and sudden movements, producing a jerky and blurred 3D that brings simulation sickness issues to the fore if you are repeatedly exposed to. This, may well limit its application, but does not occur if normal interaction speed gestures and head movements are used.

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