These days we are bombarded by a never ending stream of announcements about virtual reality systems and experiences, usually said to be “the first time ever”. Most of it is new to the general public, but hardly new. We’ve had this stuff in labs for 25 years and more. The difference now is price and performance, not features.
Worse, it is not just the good ideas that are being reinvented. Important lessons learned are being learned over again. Sigh.
I have been encouraging all the grey haired pioneers I see to please, please, please blog, write, tweet, etc. about this, to set the record straight and give these kids some context.
Of note today is a post about this great idea Valve had, to help protect people in VR from smashing into (physical) things. As Kreylos comments, this idea is “so important and clever, in fact, that Valve recently filed a patent about it.”
Kreylos goes on to document his own implementation of exactly the same idea, circa 2005! See his post for videos and recollections of his implementation.
He is confident that these are independent discoveries, but somewhat concerned that Valve might sue him for violating their patent.
I’m much more concerned that Valve didn’t know about the prior work. After all, video of the system was uploaded to YouTube in 2007, so it wasn’t a secret. And it was distributed in a software toolkit under GPL, so it is actually open and public. You would think that leading VR developers might be familiar with what was already openly available. (And I would have hoped that their patent search might have checked existing open source software, but evidently not.)
In general, why would Valve not have Sense Kreylos (and Sensei Craig, for that matter) on retainer? I mean, if you are doing VR, you really should review what has been done in the CAVE, don’t you think?