Why I Weaponized Virtual Reality


There must be a better way

After the Parkland High School mass shooting many of us were shocked that again a school became a bloodbath. It appeared everyone would talk of changes, but eventually grow silent. However, this has not been the case due to the smart & courageous efforts of a number of student survivors; everyone agreed something needs to be done. Even the President of the United States, quickly formed a “listening event,” to hear from past & present survivors and parents of those that died at Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland. Yet the only thing President Trump offered was to arm our teachers. His proposal was met with silence. I knew that the President had made up his mind because that is what Fox News had been promoting the week before. Sure enough as the days passed, his conviction towards this idea strengthened and he started pushing Congress and state governments to pass legislation and funding for training and firearms purchases.

President Donald Trump greeting those who participated in the “Listening Session”on school gun violence held on February 21, 2018 at the White House. Image courtesy of AP, photographer Carolyn Kaster

Virtual Reality

As a military veteran of many years with experience in firearms, I knew that just knowing how to shoot at targets is a completely different than using a weapon in a combat situation and the training and the professionals needed to provide this type of training would not guarantee how a person will react in a live situation. And frankly anyone (like the president) who feels having a gun will change the odds in a situation where you do not have the advantage; simply has never been exposed to a situation like this. Yet, how do you expose someone to situation like this without exposing them to danger?

Screen Capture from Homeland/Army Add-on for an Active Shooter Crisis

It came to me as I reviewed a few upcoming VR games that mimicked that used the VR controller as a weapon, I knew that this would not only be a safe solution, but require very little in the amount of money, space or the number of people involved. This is not an new idea and Homeland Security and Army have already created an School setting for their “First Responder Simulator” to simulate the actions to take place during a Red Flag situation. However it has some limitations being a standard computer FPV (First Person View) based simulator and more importantly does not allow a teacher to act out in the scenario, especially with a handgun. But using a controller to mimic a handgun is not very realistic, so I created a better solution.

Creating the VR handgun Replica

Finished working prototype mount attached to a Walther PP 99 Airsoft Replica with CO2 blowback and the Vive Tracker

Using replica of a Walther PP 99 Airsoft with CO2 blowback I connected it to a Vive Tracker. What made this replica different is that it uses a CO2 cartridge that sends a burst of compressed CO2 into a chamber, causing the the upper receiver to “blowback” performing the same action as a real Walther PP 99 that expelled the shell and loaded the next one for semi-automatic operation. Deciding on this model due to authentic action, I had to figured a way to mount a Vive Tracker, but also needed to have access to the data pins to allow switches to be attached for trigger action, safety latch operation, magazine eject and even a switch that detects when your hand is gripping the handle.

Early concept render with the Vive Tracker to mounted above the Walther PP 99

Mounting the Vive Tracker had had some challenges if I based it on HTC’s mounting guidelines, which always showed the Tracker with its unique tri-legged design facing up. This posed some problems because you would have had to mount the Tracker above the upper receiver without actually making contact with it, as not to impede the blowback action. This made the design somewhat clunky and more complicated as you can see above.

3D render of the mount showing Pogo Pin plates and tension screws attached to the Vive Tracker and Walther PP 99 replica

Luckily I recently saw an article from Microsoft Research who was also using a Tracker for one of their research projects and saw that it was mounted legs down.  This gave me an idea of using the built-in lower accessory rail, normally used to mount lights and lasers sights, for the mount to slide onto and tightened by a couple tension screws.  I also created a Pogo pin receptor plate and wired each separately with thin 28 gauge wire-wrap wire out to four micro-switches which had little strips of 3M™ VHB™ adhesive that would provide a strong bound to the gun, yet be small enough to go unnoticed, but more important to minimize any changes to the normal actions and feel of the handgun replica.  Once I had the design done I sent it off to Shapeways and less than week later I had strong nylon SLS based components that could be assembled with wires and pins inserted and tightened to the gun and Tracker.

4. Vive Tracker and custom SLS Nylon mount attached to the accessory rail of the Walther PP 00 replica and the Safety micro switch.

The results were immediate.  I could now move around the handgun in my hand that moved a similar pistol in VR.  Now I just needed to align the 3D model matching the real world model, and through proprioception I could reach out in the real world, pick it up and move it around as though it were same handgun in VR.  Now it was time to add the logic glue to detect the micro switch closures.

Pulling the Trigger in VR

5. Early Unreal Engine ‘Blueprint’ switch inputs and gun actions

Sadly this did not work out initially and crashed the Unreal Engine, but since I had already run into problems using more than three Trackers along with the Vive hand controllers while pressing switches on the hand controllers.  A developer of the ‘Vive MoCap Kit’ hand solved this with custom SteamVR plug-in and I knew that this would probably solve my issue with using a single Tracker with switches. It did and I was now back to testing the Walter PP 99 micro switches.

6. Actual in-app footage of me walking around with Vive Trackers attached while using the Vive Mocap plug-in

The first switch I had up and running was the trigger and this was pretty easy to set by using a set of four controller inputs called ‘Generic Steam Controller’ a set of controller functions in the Unreal visual scripting language called ‘Blueprint’ and one of these was labeled ‘trigger’. Once this input was programmed to push an event in the Blueprint, I just needed a few more paths for setting up a projectile and ballistics, which was pretty easy since Unreal already has built-in projectile function.  It is not a true ballistic function, but good enough for these early tests, and to be replaced by a much more accurate model in the coming week.

7. Magazine Eject Switch

What was not so easy was figuring out why my VR gun shot in only one direction.  This was solved by making the gun routine the only device in the Pawn without attaching it the user’s pawn or camera. Making it literally an object that you could lie anywhere in the real-world area and  it would appear in similar location in the VR world.  This sets up all kinds of scenarios e.g. placing it on magnetic mount that is attached to your waist, ankle, or even shoulder strap, as well as box (drawer) or a raised surface matched to a VR shelf or cabinet.  Even lay it on a surface area to mimic your desk.

VRDemo - 24 March 2018 - 07-48-36 PM_4
8. Notice something as simple as cardboard box can provide the necessary height to allow me to think I was picking up the VR gun off the VR table.  (“Shooting Range” courtesy of ‘Weapon Master’ developer kit for the Unreal Engine)

Now that I could reach out and pick up the handgun, I could also aim it like the same gun I was aiming in the real world. The effect was well — shockingly real.  Add to the fact that I could now pull the trigger and the gun jolted back, causing the VR gun to do so as well since the Vive Tracker movement followed the movement of the gun.  My mind was completely fooled into believing what I held in my hand, was the same gun I held in VR. I then added a hand that was made visible only when the grip switch was pressed continuously adding to the believably that I had picked it up and was gripping it with my VR hand.  I then finished up the switch for the Safety latch that allowed me to press it to disable or enable the firing of the VR gun, as well as a routine to check how many bullets were fired, preventing me from firing it further when the magazine was empty until I pressed the magazine eject switch and then loaded a VR magazine with my left hand (controller).

VRDemo - 24 March 2018 - 07-38-22 PM_1
9. Actual firing of the Walther PP99 replica within the “VR Shooting Range” and sadly not doing very well and probably why I didn’t get marksmanship ribbon in Basic Training 😦

The ultimate goal was to perform many of the same steps you would have to perform in the real-world to allow the user to remember or more important, be mindful that a handgun is not a toy and certain steps must be followed in order to operate it properly.  It also guarantees that under duress, that if you forget a step or don’t remember the location of a feature like the safety latch, than you are effectively just pointing a stick at the assailant.  But it also reinforces that even if you were able to obtain the weapon and remembered the steps to ensure the gun was ready to fire — would you have enough time to be effective if the assailant was already in your classroom?  Would maybe barricading the door, or even locking it be a better way of protecting yourself and your students?

Creating the Classroom

10. Navigation paths layout

Creating a realistic VR handgun was only a part of the awareness app and frankly a minor part.  The other components were to create an environment that looked and felt like a classroom, with realistically moving students and an AI controlled shooter that had an indeterminate path for unpredictably during the simulation each time it was started up.

11. Collision body around student avatars

You also have audio cues via an alarm bell & intercom system to warn you that attack was occurring (if you had forewarning) as well as realistic physics models for many of the objects that could be pushed around to create barricades as well providing material properties that interact with the bullets by altering their paths, being absorbed or just passing through, simulating the effects of stray bullets by either the shooter or yourself that could have dire consequences if they made contact with you or your students. Finally, collision bodies on your VR self, the students and the shooter that would detect if you had been fatally hit, or wounded by a direct hit, stray bullet or even debris and by adding the KOR-FX haptic vest will allow you to feel the impact of it as well.

12. Birdseye view of showing the entire layout of the classroom.  Other versions are in the works

Keep in mind that unlike a computer & monitor based simulation — with virtual reality, especially in an open space setup where you have some mobility, you will feel as though you are in the classroom and it is the goal of this simulator that you are only interacting with real life actions like light switch flipping, button pushing, objecting moving, and even your own movement is limited to how far your ‘open space’ is set to.

13. Scene of the room from the Teacher’s perspective sitting at his/her desk.

Finding out more

The completed VR application will be available in August when the new school year starts, but an alpha version will be shown through April 22-23 at the “Immersive Design” conference hosted by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

If you are interested in finding out more on how to obtain a copy of “Only Seconds” for your educational center or district, or a you are a member of the Parent Teachers Association and need a tool to convince proponents of weaponizing your teachers on why this should not be the first solution you look at.  Or maybe just practicing procedures under randomized event environment in the simulator might help you come up with new ideas or structural changes to make an attack less deadly?  Then please contact us at info@owlcreek.tech or our website owlcreek.tech (5/1/2018), where you can order your free copy of the the awareness/training simulator “Only Seconds,” as well as the replica handgun conversion kit ($49.95), or the complete replica and Vive Tracker kit ($225).  We will also also be offering training and setup services to those who do not have an onsite VR or computer specialist to set up their HTC/Vive system for small fee and travel costs.


Is 3D Technology Creating the Perfect Mass Murder Machine?


Update:  On August 1, 2018 the DOJ has settled with Defense Distributed, allowing them to relaunch DEFCAD, a website repository of plans, CAD files, instruction, 3D fabrication devices/services directory as well as a forum to talk about the previous items.  This website will require no identification or identity validation and will be open to anyone around the world.  The fact that this site is protected by SHA-256 & 2048 bit RSA keys Secure Socket Layer, it will be next to impossible to know exactly what was obtained, and if the user, is using a dark VPN connection, they will be untraceable.


With so many mass shooting incidents in the United States in 2018, I began to wonder like many, if it could get any worse. Sadly, I feel that indeed it will get worse and we have 3D technologies to thank.

Having spent quite a few years in different aspects of 3D technology from fabrication, scanning and visualization; including the past three years as a VAMR (Virtual, Augmented, Mixed Reality) developer, I am seeing an alarming trend of using several 3D technologies to create the perfect weapon. Here’s how:



One of the topics we covered in our first episode of ‘All Things 3D’ in October of 2013 was creating a gun with 3D printers and even though our conclusion in that episode, is yes technically, but the technologies didn’t exist to the garage tinkerer unless they invested tens of thousands of dollars in a commercial 3D printer to create a gun with enough tensile strength for more than a few rounds. More importantly the firing pin and few other components would still need to be made from good old metal. Sadly in 2018 the same case cannot be made since we now have carbon-fiber and even aluminum filament for extrusion based 3D printers that indeed would have the strength along with an inexpensive milling machines to create the metal components

GhostGunner 2 - 3

and I have even seen complete “AR-15 kits” with CNCed (Computer Numerical Control) milled metal that have no serial numbers. In some ways, this is even more deadly because the infamous “Bump Stock” (update 2/20 President Trump memorandum *) could now be integrated into the design, or worse make it fully automatic from the start. Sure, we have seen noise from Congress and some of the larger companies in trying to curtail or even confiscate commercial 3D printers used for such purposes, but now many low-cost printers under $10K can be used; with many of them being sold from China, making it a much harder proposition to shut down until after the fact. It should also be noted that there are ton of web, torrent and Tor sites that provide full 3D files to print these parts, but thankfully sites that list common 3D printable components sites like Thingiverse and YouMagine have banned 3D gun components, but not all commercial sites do and it is a simple matter of Googling what you want.



Let’s say that all the websites, like ones above are removed. This will not stop the dedicated gun-maker from replicating his choice of weapons, including several true military grade weapons now that many 3D scanners are available from companies like Artec, GO Scan, Einscan and NextEngine, that are made specifically for scanning industrial components and machine parts, along with scan services 3D scan services like EMS-USA that specialize in scanning military weapons.

In fact, when I was still providing 3D fabrication & scanning services a few years back, I scanned a Sig Sauer 227 for a company in California who created holsters so they could 3D fabricate a mock-up of the gun for test-fitting in their holster design.


When I ask them why they just didn’t use the real gun, I was told “they didn’t want to ruin the finish.” In this case, the weapon was not part-for-part scanned and would have required a great deal of work to convert it into a proper CAD file to create an operational version, but the rep seemed less than satisfied with my 3D scan and told me they normally use a 3d scanner technician out of Switzerland to break down the weapon to its minute components which they would scan & convert it to precise CAD files.



This last item that really has me terrified and I don’t appear to be the only commentary in the VR world that feels this way since UploadVR also wrote about the concerns of large media corporations like Sony Entertainment & Respawn Entertainment spending millions in VR development to create realistic combat/contract killer simulators — not for the military, but for the consumer. Namely anyone with a PlayStation VR or Oculus compatible VR system will be able to buy these “games” that will try to duplicate the experience of warfare and killing other VR avatars that so happen to look like real people. In fact, in the game “Blood & Truth,” you can also shoot limbs just to inflict pain.


This is not the first time as I reported this, and as far back as February of 2017 in a “3D in Review,” episode when I called the “John Wick Chronicles,” the “The Perfect Murder Simulator, ” since the goal was if you are familiar with John Wick narrative, is to inflict maximum casualties to those who are trying to hunt you down. The VR game was even replete with a training simulator to hone your “skills” with an assortment of pistols and sub-machine guns. As someone who has some weapons training when I was in the military, and few opportunities to go target practicing in the years since. I was struck on how natural it was to bring my HTC/Vive hand controller up to my face, look through the sight (in VR) and pull the controller’s trigger. I even found myself using breathing techniques I learned to steady my hand. Of course I knew this was only a hand controller and I was wearing a VR headset, but for an hour I really did feel like I was out on a mission, with the sole purpose of methodically and expediently killing as many enemy combatants as I could to stay alive. Now mind you this was back in early 2017 and with an entire year & more money thrown at the FPS (First Person Shooter) VR genre, which is also the most lucrative area for developers to see a return on their time & money, expect the experiences to become even more realistic with weapons ballistics physics being accurately modeled to act just like those fired in the real world and the ability to simulate loading a magazine (pulled from your belt like in Arizona Sunshine),


pulling back the bolt to clear the firing chamber, taking it off the safety or controlling firing rate from single, semi-automatic, to full automatic latch and it is easy to see how this is far different than any shooter game you or your kids played just a few years back with a keyboard and mouse.

Now of course you say this is all just simulated with a VR hand controller which is nothing like the real weapon. True, but what if we replaced the hand controller with a replica of an AR-15 like the VR-15?


Or for that matter any weapon you choose (see 3D fabrication and scanning above) and connect it HTC/Vive Tracker which allows any real-world object to be tracked in VR as well allow input from different switches (e.g. trigger, safety, hammer, and rate of fire), then make sure it has the proper weight, recoil system and you no longer need to pretend.


The VR weapon will not only act like real weapon in VR but will feel like one as well. Add gloves with hand/finger sensors and you will be able to see your VR fingers touch, turn and pull on the weapon creating a perfect proprioception loop between you and the VR world.


And it does not stop there with several 3D modeling tools and engines available for free or a very low subscription price, any hobbyist, enthusiastic teenager or young adult can afford to make anything possible (and sadly the number of models now available proves this). And realizing I too could be providing ideas with what I have been able accomplish with many of these low cost tools over the past 20 years**, let’s just say that what Columbine assailants did with the Doom Engine in 1999, and the 9-11 terrorist were able to accomplish with the off-the-shelf Flight Simulator from Microsoft is nothing compared to what someone will be able to plan and train for in the very near future.

VRDemo - 24 March 2018 - 07-38-22 PM_1

As they say, it isn’t just US Military’s technology that makes it the most potent military in the world, but the training each soldier, airman, seaman or marine receives. In future mass shootings it won’t be just the military grade weapons we will be talking about, but also the military style training one would be able receive in the privacy of their garage or living room that will make the horrible massacre this past Valentine’s at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School seem like amateur hour. It’s true that just banning or making it harder to obtain or create weapons of mass murder is only part of the solution. We also need to stop creating entertainment that glamorizes death & destruction and rewarding companies & developers who seek to raise the bar on how realistically we can kill someone as a reward for in-game training and perseverance as well as not simulating the hardware as close as possible to the “real thing.” We also need to pass laws discouraging the military (DOD will be investing several tens of millions into VR in the next two years) from using these as entertainment tools to recruit, train, and rank teenagers & young adults on their simulated combat skills, while conditioning them that certain “groups” of enemy combatants (or civilians) are their enemy.

However, none of this will happen if these companies with millions of dollars to fan out to local, state, federal lawmakers keep encouraging them to look the other way or even push for more favorable legislation, as well as taking responsibility in changing our own buying or watching habits when we see something marketed, advertised or created for the sole purpose of simulating or inflicting harm or damage.

Each of these 3D technologies I mentioned above have done far more to advance engineering, architecture, design, medicine and even education. It is too bad that these same tools can also be used for mass murder by anyone who desires to use them in that manner.


* President Trump if you are truly interested in banning devices that turn weapons into “machine guns,” there are a number of devices like the Ghost Gunner 2 that can definitely make this a reality, and are sold to allow the novice to create weapons that are not registered or serialized. You should also be concerned that companies who supply these devices & services also boast about how these will be used to protect them against the government that you are now president of.

** If you are reading this, and work for the government or congress committee and would like more details on the 3D tools available that were not mentioned in this article intentionally to avoid providing further ideas, you are welcome to email at info@allthings3d.net for further information.

Who’s Your Daddy? Not Oculus!

On October 13th, 2016 around 2:00 am PDT after tweaking “GVRgraveyard” for the upteenth time, I saw on my second monitor a tweet that Oculus had just sent out an update to the Note 7 that essentially bricked (disabled) it for its use with Samsung Gear VR. As you can see the message states:

“Customer safety is Oculus’ top priority. Oculus is removing support for all Note7 devices on the Oculus platform. Until further notice, Note7 devices will not be compatible with the Gear VR. For more information regarding the Note 7, please contact Samsung directly.”

The reality it was not safety but liability since it has been over a month since Note 7 combustions occurred, along with its first recall. It is also worth noting that mobile VR pushes the phone to its limit, raising internal temperatures and rapidly draining the battery. Yet, none of the recorded incidents occurred while connected to the GearVR. Why is this? I guess even though 65 phones out of 2.5 million causing a fire is one too many, the fact remains many Note 7s have a reliable “safe” battery. But again, since Samsung does not exactly know why or which battery lot is bad and the first attempt to fix the problem didn’t, we must assume any Note 7 could burst into flames. So why I am I angry with Oculus “doing the right thing?”

Unlike most Note 7 users, my Note 7 was purchased specifically for mobile VR development due to its larger screen (5.7″), increase in memory, Snapdragon 820 SOC, as well as the best solution to use with the Gear VR along testing Google Cardboard apps until it is upgraded to Android 7 & Google VR. Since I also own several other phones, many purchased on eBay with bad IMEIs (did not need cellular service) with most of these being last year’s models and I needed the latest mobile tech e.g. Note 7 to start testing new features offered in UE4 & Unity along with ability to test Google VR/Cardboard in UE4. However the Note 7 is not perfect and the 5.7″ screen is misnomer since part of the screen wraps around the edges which in my opinion, makes the screen narrower that other 5.7″ screen like the Nexus 6P, or even my favorite for mobile VR, the Nexus 6 with its 5.96″ screen, but sadly no one else was making a large 2560×1440 AMOLED screen, but I digress. My goal in buying the Note 7 was for development, and even after the initial recall, which I followed and had replaced even though I had tested it for hours in both Google VR and Gear VR. The replacement was also working with no problems under the same extreme VR testing. So when news broke that the replacements were also bursting into flames, I continued to test, but mindful of how long it was in in the Gear VR, or developer mode with my own VR viewer the NEODiVR uPLAy (below), always turning it off when not in use, storing it in a metal box, only using a slow-rate charger and removing it when fully charged.

Many of these techniques I have learned over the decades in developing other products and working around sensitive equipment in the USAF and elsewhere. I also have designed power and charging circuits, including Li-ION Polymer power circuits and have always treated batteries with care. Which leads me to the title of the article.

Oculus has had a heavy hand in controlling their eco-system, constantly updating their firmware for the desktop Oculus Rift to ensure its control over its walled garden until their customers pushed back, and I see that same heavy hand here. First, Oculus should have sent out an email since everyone needs to provide one when becoming part of the Oculus eco-system, as well as send an app update warning that they plan to disable its service for the Note 7. Second, make exceptions for developers and those willing to sign a indemnification letter, like those signed for other dangerous activities like skydiving, cliff climbing, and other extreme activities instead of pulling the plug without warning.

So how did they do it? Like most modern computers today, most updates come in the form of OTAs (Over The Air) updates, this is what allows your apps to stay up to date, new OS security fixes and features and for the most part these are a godsend over previous methods which the user had to download, unzip and either click on a installer or manually add files — an utter nightmare. However it is not perfect and some updates fail, corrupting the program and preventing it from being used. Normally this is fixed by deleting it and installing it again. But in some cases, the failure is deep within the OS and can cause your computer or smartphone to stop working and normally has to be brought in to be serviced. However, as in this case they can be used to switch off features as well. Tesla has done this to its “auto pilot,” Microsoft has done this Windows 7 & 8 to force you to Windows 10. Oculus however has gone one step further and used its OTA power to actually prevent you from using the Note 7 with another accessory — the ‘Gear VR 2016’ and literally turning it into a paper weight unless you either have a spare Galaxy S6, S7 (Edge), or Note 5 lying around. Or exchange your Note 7 for one of these older phones. Again remember there was no warning, no options, Oculus just set down the law and imposed the punishment. For myself, who feels they understand the risks and have taken the precautions, I was never given an opportunity to argue my case, sign indemnity letter or even get a stay of execution. My Gear VR was terminated leaving me just days from testing and submitting my app into the coveted Oculus Gear VR app store. So not only do I not have a development system; a fun Halloween VR app will never be seen by thousands of Gear VR owners. Thank you daddy Oculus.

Inside the Maze

My 10-episode journey into HBO’s Westworld wearing NEODiVR uPLAy

UPDATE: It was just announced that there will be HBO VR theatre app in Google Daydream.

After finishing up the latest production prototype of the NEODiVR uPLAY, a highly immersive pocketable mobile VR viewer and optional equally pocketable semi-rigid headband and smart phone bracket in late September 2016. I wanted to “dog food” my product to test for comfort and viewability. What good is something if you can’t take anywhere, notably public transportation like trains, buses and airplanes and immerse yourself in either a Google Cardboard app, or a saved video? It was the latter that I thought would give me the best opportunity to test comfort and viewability for a longer period.

NEODiVR uPLAy with clip on phone bracket with optional helmet mount piece

For the software, there are several VR theatres for Android and iOS phones. Some of these were built with the Unity game engine, some were developed with the Google VR API. After trying several apps, I made my decision to use “VU Cinema Pro” for Android. For $1.99 not only do you get a standard theater experience complete with seats, but also an IMAX version with a huge screen. Like many VR theaters, including Google’s own Cardboard YouTube viewer, gaze control is the control mechanism of choice. You just stare at position and wait for the circle to complete and that feature activates. With VU Cinema, you can select video type, either mono, stereo SBS (Side by Side) or TB (Top/Bottom), as well as variety of video encoding formats. It also supports a subtitle, and multiple audio language track. It also includes a screen lock feature for those phones where the gyro drifts too much, but the best experience is having gyro/accelerometer turned on for a more realistic experience.

Next you need to provide content, and for me it was Westworld, through my HBO subscription and offline storage at a resolution of 1280×720, since there is no screen that supports a resolution higher than 2560×1440 and since video content even in mono still needs to generate an image for each eye giving you only 1280 pixels at max per eye, but more like 1200 once you throw in screen border and the center mask.

Once armed with the content, viewing app and the NEODiVR uPLAy, I was ready to watch the first episode of Westworld. Even though this was not my first experience using a VR theatre since I tried a version for Windows for the Oculus DK1, then for the Oculus DK2, and eventually for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, I find that my uPLAy with its minimal design and big lenses, gives you the sense you have just donned 3D glasses instead of wearing a mask and giving me the illusion I was actually sitting in a theater. The best kind since I didn’t have to worry about someone next to me texting, or people talking behind me. Or that cramped feeling you get with sold-out theatre. Sure, I guess the developer could populate the theatre with avatars if this makes you feel too lonely, but I actually enjoyed having an IMAX theater all to myself.


So, what is it like? To me, I found the experience damn good. Sure, you can see the sub-pixels, but at 2560×1440 on the Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, Nexus 6, Note 4, Note 7 or the LG G5 they were barely visible, and as the episode progressed and as you became more engrossed, I forgot that I was wearing the uPLAy and thought I was in a theatre, no that isn’t quite right. I felt like I was part of the experience. With characters’ life size and conversing in right in front of you, and found myself replying, suggesting or even warning Delores of a impending situation. Sadly (no spoilers), she didn’t heed my warnings. It was also breathtaking at times since the vistas, which were shot in Dead Horse Point state park were just amazing. I can only think of what this would have been like if some of this was shot with Nokia OZO, or similar high-resolution stereo 360 spherical cameras, which leads me to the “what I would do to make this even better?” suggestions.

Screen captured opening credits of HBO’s Westworld in the VU Cinema Android app

As mentioned, I longed for full stereo 360 scenes, like when the opening scenes play out in the streets of Sweetwater that would have been amazing if the camera had been a stereo 360, allowing you to experience the scene as though you were standing in the middle of it next to William as he took it all in. Imagine not needing to rotate the camera to force your view, but using sounds and voices to draw your attention. Like maybe someone yelling in your right ear, causing you to look in that direction just before the gunfight ensued. Imagine being in the street when the gang road in and started shooting up the town? This is what I long for, the day where I feel like I’m part of the scene as it plays out. But right now, these cameras are in their infancy and the resolution required to produce the same detail we take for granted at 1080P would need to be 5K-8K, not just the 4K content we are just starting to see. Also, stereo 360 spherical effects and editing are harder and requiring a great deal more computer power to render the frames at 8K, plus a ton of storage to hold the footage. Granted H.265 and wavelet compression techniques will help, but encoding time will be excruciating requiring more cloud computing or encoding farms. But it will happen, and not only will I be able see what the maze was, but feel like I was part of the discovery. Until then, I dream of next season’s opening episode as I slip the uPLAy viewer around the sides my new Note 8 with its 3840×2160 screen, clip on the phone bracket, stretch the band over the top of my head, place my Sony MDR-7506s over my ears, lean back in my La-Z-Boy, close my eyes to listen to the haunting piano introduction, and then opening my eyes to once again find myself in Sweetwater and back inside maze.

HBO’s Westworld promo image of Sweetwater