QuickTime VR

QuickTime VR (Virtual Reality) is a technology from Apple that lets you control a
QuickTime movie. It’s not a normal QuickTime movie, but a panoramic picture that you
look around in. You can turn, look up and down, and zoom in and out. The term virtual
reality is a little deceiving because of what people expect from it. Most virtual reality
computers have special gloves and headsets you wear so that you can move your head and
your view changes. QuickTime VR does not do this. You cannot walk around like in those
virtual reality computers.

To get a 360° image, you have to take a lot of photos around one point and digitize them,
take a picture using a panoramic camera, or use a program like KPT Bryce to create a
computer generated image. With the photos, you need a program to “stitch” the images
into one. When photos are stitched, they are combined in overlapping areas so that there is
no visible break between pictures. Apple sells this with their entire QuickTime VR kit for
about $500. If you’re using a computer generated image or panoramic camera, there is a
program for free that will create a single movie using that image.

The panoramic image is very distorted. When a series of photographs is stitched together,
horizontal lines appear to move back into the picture. If you are using a computer
generated image, you can specify how you want the picture to be rendered. In KPT Bryce,
for example, you can render in a panoramic view. This is rendered with distortion in the
picture, but looks fine when used as a panorama. The QuickTime VR viewer, available for
free off the Internet, is needed to make the picture look normal. The viewer takes this
image and “flattens” it so it looks like a normal picture.

Besides a scene to look around in, there can also be objects to move around and look at from
any angle. These can be photographs taken with a special stand, available from Apple, or
computer generated images. The latter being much easier because of the amount of pictures
needed to create an object. You have to have a picture of the object from every angle. This
requires a lot of pictures. A digital camera would cut down on costs if you need to
photograph a real object.

In a panorama, there can be hot spots that, when clicked upon, will cause something to
happen. This could be another panorama, a text box, a still photo, a sound clip, a
QuickTime movie or a QuickTime VR object. This is how you move from scene to scene,
known as nodes. You can click on a doorway and it opens the panorama for the next room.
You could then click on a sculpture and be able to pick it up and hold it. You could click on a
picture of a famous person and have a sound clip of a famous quote play.
This is where the practical uses come in. You could, for instance, walk around museums
half way around the world using QuickTime VR. You could pick up sculptures to get a better
look at them. Although not too practical, you could walk on an alien landscape and meet new
life forms. Anything is possible. The problem is that you have to have a team of people to
create a large world to move in. One panorama you could do by yourself. As long as you
don’t want any hot spots, you can do it for free.

QuickTime VR is a nice technology, but not as impressive as it sounds. I would definitely
get the software for it, it’s free off the Internet, because it is fun to try out once in awhile.
I don’t think it will revolutionize virtual reality, but it does have its uses. The Web site
for QuickTime VR is <http://quicktimevr.apple.com/>. I would suggest looking at this site
for its samples and software. QuickTime VR is definitely fun, but not too useful.

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