Two days ago I received a huge heavy metal wedge from Sony. The largest side contained a camera and a 15.6-inch 4K screen.
I connected it to a powerful gaming computer and started the first demo. A tiny, highly detailed Volkswagen Atlas popped up in front of my face – and when I pressed a button it floated right off the screen. A few minutes later, I saw a 4-inch anime girl dancing her heart inside Sony's device, tapping her feet on a floor made of hexagonal mirrors. It's the magic of 3D stereoscopic.
The Wedge is Sony's new spatial reality display, and it's not a new idea from afar – it's just the industry's latest attempt at creating something called a "holographic display" for the world's content creators who want to see their digital objects and designs appear in their physical space. At $ 5,000, it's also not the cheapest – a 15.6-inch 4K mirror costs $ 3,000 and allows multiple people to see these images at the same time.
According to Sony, the combination of a high-speed camera for face and gaze tracking, real-time algorithms and extremely fine, precisely fitted lenses delivers a clearer picture than any previous display. And while I don't have a competitor to try side by side, and I can't show you examples on your 2D computer screen, for the most part, Sony’s demos have been pretty impressive.
A close-up video I took while moving my phone to show how the lenses offer different perspectives for each eye.
GIF: Sean Hollister / The Verge
I have to admit the illusion is easy to break. By my estimates, you are looking at a virtual diorama that is roughly 13 x 6 x 5 inches and any virtual objects that are deeper or taller are simply clipped from the edges of the display. If you lean too close or too far to one side, the Sony camera won't be able to track you and the 3D effect may twitch and disappear. The image also twitched when my wife tried to look next to me. The camera may not be able to keep up with multiple people.
But those limitations didn't stop me from counting every cobblestone in a beautiful bistro scene and peering into the restaurant, with its tiny wooden chairs and tables – each with their own curved metal armrests and individual slats – and admiring details like the baskets of plants, from which it hung The lampposts and colored fairy lights spanned the street and were sloped almost enough to see through the arch to the right.
Flat images don't do it justice. Imagine if this were a diorama in front of you.
Photo: Sean Hollister / The Verge.
I was later able to see a Ghostbusters Ecto-1 in all its glory, with a fully equipped interior, a two-rim steering wheel, lots of shiny chrome handles and a panel that reflects a real-time light source, and 31 fully functional lights, including its rotating ones Turn signals and rocket taillights. This demo (and display) is also compatible with the Leap Motion for 3D gesture control, although I found it a bit sensitive.
Personally, I already think that you can get a much better feel for virtual objects with a good VR headset than with a screen like this one, but Sony claims its audiences wanted a stationary monitor that can live on their desk.
Would you choose this through a VR headset?
Most of the demos were made in Unity, although Sony says there is an SDK for Unity and Unreal and it should be easy to port VR content from both platforms. The company says the 500-nit 4K display supports 100 percent of the Adobe RGB color gamut. While Sony recommends at least an Intel Core i7-9700K and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super or better to power the display, it does come with the display's own built-in 2.1 speaker system that gets quite loud (and via dedicated volume buttons on the top Edge features).
Sony says the new display is already occupied by engineers from companies such as Volkswagen, filmmakers such as its own Ghostbusters studio, Ghost Corps, and "one of the largest architecture firms in the world". However, the company does not want to limit potential acceptance to partners. It will open direct sales to anyone who wants one on their own website in November.
You can use it as a flat panel display in a pinch, but the lenses make it appear pretty low definition that way.
Photo: Sean Hollister / The Verge
You can also sign up to attend a virtual demo on October 22nd at 3:00 p.m. ET. However, I can't imagine that this really helps decide which display you need to see in 3D.