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Living the dream, dreaming the life

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By Roger Snodgrass

What’s next after the Internet?With an eye on the far horizon, the president of WorldScape Inc., announced plans last December to install an immersive visualization theater in the Research Park on the edge of the campus of Los Alamos National Laboratory.Modeled after the LANL’s immersive “CAVE,” the multi-screen projection and viewing system that takes the viewer inside a nuclear explosion, WorldScape’s plan is to showcase its own production content and point collaborators to its production facilities going in soon with the New Mexico Film Studios in Budaghers.According to some crystal- ball-gazers, immersive 3-D may well become the medium that will convey the next quantum jump in information.“We’re definitely on track and leaving the station,” said Pete Rogina, who is also lead enthusiast for WorldScape’s mind-melding futurific ambitions. “We’re expecting to be out there and building in the coming months.”Rogina, who has been making regular visits to the Hill and has hired two former laboratory employees, said recently that a “Living Room of the Future” will be part of the facility.“It will have whatever technology is required to bring the immersive experience into the home,” he said. “Then, when the 3-D and related technology hits, we’ll be there to pump the content through.”Here’s how he figures.Hannah Montana’s 3--D movie broke box office records for average take per screen; the U2 concert and 3-D versions of “Beowulf,” same story. Trade reports say 3-D moves like that can charge more while attracting twice as many eyeballs – and that’s why they’re making three times what the old flat-world flicks collect.While imagining James Cameron’s “Titanic” in depth, just wait for his $200 million 3-D blockbuster Avatar coming at the end of 2009.There are five or six movies that will have 3-D versions this year alone.The writing is on the living room wall. The next two years may be the tipping point.What begins at the theme park with IMAX and 3-D-IMAX is not staying at the theme park; it’s coming home.Coincidentally, the video game onslaught is adding new capabilities and accessories on a regular basis, all of which add to the power and expectations of future entertainment.Rogina mentioned the Wii remote control, used for Nintendo’s Wii video game console. A game player holds the so-called “Wiimote” in his or her hand to input virtual motion into the receiver, like a tennis forehand or a bowling throw.“Turn it around and put that part on top of your television; put a couple of LEDs on the side of your glasses, so the Wiimote can track your head motion. Tie that capability to a 3-D projection and a wall-sized TV,” he said, “and the only thing missing is the processing power to provide the immersive experience.”Another reason to be located in Los Alamos, Rogina said, has to do with aspects of a tech-transfer agreement the company has signed with the lab.“We expect to take some of the real world data we capture and leverage some of LANL’s algorithms and processing architecture to stay ahead of the curve on reconstructing scenes seamlessly and with super resolution,” he said.Living your dreams, whether it is the ice palace of Kublai Kahn or the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, is becoming less and less outrageous and more and more delicious to imagine.Lucid dreamers have out-of-body experiences. Ordinary mortals are already downloading DVDs to 10-foot screens and looking for the next dream destination.How about an African safari, or noon at the Sun Dagger on the summer solstice at Chaco Canyon?You and half the world may be about to beat a path to WorldScape’s showroom in the Research Park.