Virtual reality gets real

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Virtual reality was all the rage two decades ago, then fell off the radar screen. However, VR is making a bit of a comeback these days. The success of the Nintendo Wii has trigged renewed interest in VR systems for gaming. And companies are sprouting up that are working on VR projects in a number of other areas.

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Virtual reality was all the rage two decades ago, then fell off the radar screen. However, VR is making a bit of a comeback these days. The success of the Nintendo Wii has trigged renewed interest in VR systems for gaming. And companies are sprouting up that are working on VR projects in a number of other areas.

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Oculus Rift

This 3D, motion-sensing, head-mounted display is targeted at video games. Oculus LLC raised $2.4 million through the Kickstarter crowd-funding site and expects to have a product available late this year or early next year.

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VirtuSphere

VirtuSphere is a 10-foot hollow sphere placed on a special platform that allows it to rotate freely in any direction according to the user's steps. Wearing a wireless, head-mounted display, the user can walk and run inside the virtual environment.

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Innovega iOptik

Innovega's iOptik system consists of advanced contact lenses that deliver an immersive display into the wearer's line of sight. The hands-free system could be used on the battlefield, for example, to receive live feeds of information. The company hopes to receive FDA approval for its product this year.

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Barco

Barco sells 3D simulators for flight training, driving, air traffic control and other applications. The company says that 30% of the world's military pilots have used the system.

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Mechdyne

Mechdyne's Cave is a room-size virtual reality system that allows multiple people to experience the same VR world at the same time. Cave combines high-resolution projection and 3D computer graphics to create the VR experience.

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Intelligent Decisions

Intelligent Decisions recently released the Dismounted Soldier Training System to 28 US Army installations worldwide. The virtual reality system is designed to simulate battlefield conditions.

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Digital ArtForms

Digital ArtForms develops VR environments for design, medicine and military applications.

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Razer Hydra

The Razer Hydra (previously Sixense TrueMotion) is a motion detection video game controller developed by Sixense Entertainment. It uses a weak magnetic field to detect the position and orientation of the controllers. The current release is wired, but a wireless version is in development.

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Leap Motion

Leap is developing a $70 motion-sensing alternative to the mouse. The Leap is an iPod-size USB peripheral that creates a 3D interactive space of 8 cubic feet which interacts with and controls software on a Mac or PC. It is slated to be available in February 2013.

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Kinect for Windows

Microsoft's Kinect for the Xbox uses infrared cameras to capture movement and gestures, but Microsoft is taking Kinect technology to a new level with Kinect for Windows, which would enable PC users to use gestures instead of a mouse.

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