(5 March 2015) San Francisco, California
Pantomime Corporation, a California bay area startup (http://pantomimecorp.com), today announced it has been granted a United States patent covering the use of mobile devices to reach into virtual reality worlds and interact in 3D. For this week’s Game Developer Conference, the company unveiled video of users reaching into shared virtual worlds to play real-time networked games, across all the major consumer mobile and computer platforms.
Key applications of the patented Pantomime™ technology include realistic 3D mobile games and online multi-user social networks, where users can accurately swing virtual paddles, handle objects, move and see their virtual hands, and control avatar bodies with expressive body language.
For the immersive head-mounted displays usually associated with virtual reality, Pantomime’s solution provides a much needed way to reach in and interact.
In many applications of the patented technology, no virtual reality headset or other wearable device is needed. Users can reach into virtual worlds with the tablets and smart phones they already own, seeing the worlds through ordinary computer and mobile screens, and optionally, through VR headsets as well.
Consumer Revolution: Interactive VR with No New Hardware
Pantomime co-founder and CEO David Levitt said, “Pantomime will help change Virtual Reality from a passive medium like movies to an interactive one like videogames – with no hardware cost. Even more important, Pantomime lets ordinary consumers join in with whichever computers they’ve got, without requiring a headset or other new hardware. That means much more sharing, faster adoption by consumers, and more synergy with the game software industry. In that sense Pantomime’s market is much bigger than what we’ve been calling Virtual Reality up to now. Beyond 100,000 developers with headsets, we can reach 500 million mobile consumers.”
The company will make the technology available to third parties, licensing its patents and cross-platform Pantomime Platform™ software to mobile, game and social software developers.
Patented Mobile Tracking Solution
The navigation method in the issued patent, a support and geometry based method, enables fast, accurate motion tracking with low latencies, high frame rates, no jitter or drift, and no need for a camera or vision processing. This allows the software to finely track real 3D user motions in the virtual world, in part by knowing the size and shape of the device it is running on. Any mobile device with standard sensors becomes a gyro-stabilized 3D game controller or VR paddle. A mobile device with a screen and a rear-facing camera becomes a glass portal into virtual reality, while computers with front-facing cameras become VR portals with built-in mirrors.
Since the Pantomime algorithms track relative motion, users can move through the virtual world by walking or tumbling a device across a real table; or they can keep the device in one place and ‘pantomime’ the steps and motion across the table. Users can thus keep the mobile device at a comfortable distance without disturbing the virtual world, or can carry it with them anywhere. Users can also move and turn in the world by touching the mobile screen. This provides users the ultimate freedom to reach in and to move, or not to move, when playing.
Makes Virtual Reality Interactive
Dr. Levitt was an inventor and product manager at VPL Research, the firm that coined the term Virtual Reality and sold the first commercial systems in the 1990s. The VPL system included a 3D device for reaching in and interacting in virtual worlds known as the DataGlove. Today’s emerging VR systems, such as the Oculus DK-2 and the Samsung Gear VR introduced last year, provide no direct way to reach in in 3D. Instead, devices from other vendors for reaching in may cost $300 or more — more than the cost of the VR headset.
Because these systems have lacked native reach-in technology, early Virtual Reality experiences typically let users look around but allow very little interaction. Instead of reaching in, users may turn their heads to face an object in the world and then tap a trackpad on their temple to select it, or operate a game joystick in their lap while neither their hands nor the joystick is visible in the virtual world.
In contrast, Pantomime users interact easily by moving ordinary mobile devices. They can see them all in the shared virtual world, along with animation of their hands and the table supporting them; and can handle any virtual tool or avatar they’d like to control in 3D.
Leading virtual reality firms welcome Pantomime’s approach to making virtual worlds more interactive and more accessible to consumers. Arthur van Hoff, CTO of cinematic virtual reality firm Jaunt, says, “Combining Pantomime’s approach with Jaunt’s, you’ll not only be teleported to Paris under the Eiffel Tower and see it all around you. You’ll be able to interact, socialize, and play games at a table in a cafe below – with real people who might actually be joining from Tokyo.”
About Pantomime Corporation
Pantomime Corporation was founded in April 2014 by virtual reality pioneer Dr. David Levitt and Don Hopkins, core programmer for the most successful PC game franchise in history, The Sims. The firm quickly won the Silicon Valley Launch World Cup for Digital Media / Mobile.
Pantomime Corporation’s revolutionary virtual reality software platform turns any tablet, smart phone or computer into a portal into shared virtual worlds — headgear optional. Pantomime™ lets any mobile user visit shared worlds, reach in, and interact. Pantomime thus lifts the key barriers to mass adoption of VR by consumers: easy access, reaching in, sharing, and mobility.
Pantomime’s founders first applied for the patent, Methods for Real-Time Navigation and Display of Virtual Worlds, in 2011. Pantomime Corporation acquired their intellectual property rights when the company was founded in April 2014. The issued patent is US 8,872,854. Multiple related patents are pending.