3D iPhone content created by Toronto firm and college collaboration

When it comes to making content that pops off the screen, Spatial View Inc. takes the phrase literally.

The small Toronto-based firm has an array of hardware and software that is geared towards generating high-quality 3D images. Already offering products for gamers, digital signage users and entertainment producers, Spatial View had its sights set on Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch as its next 3D platform.

They created a special case that allows for 3D content on the iPhone without the need for glasses. The Wazabee 3DeeShell is a $55 protective case with a special lens that can be slid in and out. Now Spatial View just needed some content to showcase on their add-on.

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Used to a Windows environment, the company now had to put together a Software Development Kit (SDK) for the iPhone, recalls Brad Casemore, vice-president of business development at Spatial View. It wasn’t sure how developers would respond to their first effort.

“We still didn’t have experience with a third party,” he says. “Our guys aren’t necessarily creative people. They’re not artists – so to work with people who really look at things from the other end of the spectrum and use their imaginations was a mindset we really needed.”

Enter Sheridan College’s Visualization Design Institute. Looking for a project to showcase at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last February, the Toronto-area college called up Spatial View and offered to help.

By developing a game using the SDK, the institute would also be able to help refine the kit and make it more useful to other developers, says Julia Walden, director of the institute.

“The point of the project was for us to streamline their software development kit and test it beyond their internal team,” she says. “We made it easier to work with for potential content developers on the iPhone.”

The college also collaborated with Astral Media’s Family Channel to hone their content for an audience aged eight- to 14-years-old. Dubbed Carnival Craze, the game is currently going through the process to become available in Apple’s App Store.


Carnival Craze is a 3D game when viewed on the iPhone through Spatial View’s 3DeeShell case.

With a six-week deadline to be ready in time for the Barcelona show, Sheridan quickly set to work on tweaking the SDK and developing its proof-of-concept game. The project was completed in just six weeks, Casemore says.

“They were quick studies and took our nascent SDK and produced some really compelling content,” he says. “Our kit went from being a loose collection of tools to a real SDK.”

One of the main changes to the SDK was the graphical tools it offered to developers. Spatial View had largely focused on a pixel-based graphics engine, but has now opened up more OpenGL capabilities.

Sheridan’s team made the suggestion after having difficulty in moving a figure in the foreground into the background, says Kevin Eldred, creative director at the institute.

“The trick is that Spatial View has a software-hardware combination, so you want to create content that works to the best of the hardware’s ability,” he says. “By moving to OpenGL, we found we were able to enhance the depth of field.”

The new graphics engine also allowed for more objects to appear on the screen at once, he adds.

Spatial View took the recommendation because it helped developers adopt the SDK, Casemore says.

“It’s an open standard and that’s the way a lot of people want to work,” he says.

Spatial View provided the hardware, software, and some development assistance for the project. Sheridan provided its faculty and some help from students to complete the project.

Funding came in part from the Family Channel, and the Ontario Centres of Excellence Inc. (OCE) provided $13,475 towards the project.

“OCE has some really forward-looking people that understand technologies can’t be tested in a vacuum,” Walden says. “There shouldn’t be one fund technology and one fund for content. It has to come together.”

Sheridan’s institute has worked on a range of projects including a video-game style simulation of the parking lot at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, the recreating of a Viking settlement in Canada’s Maritimes area, and a simulation of a nuclear reactor for Atomic Energy of Canada.

Sheridan is also a member of the Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation. The network of 10 colleges in Ontario seeks to assist small businesses with technology expertise from students and faculty.

Students were involved in the Spatial View project too, Walden says. They created a Web-based interactive survey that visitors at the Mobile World Congress could use to leave feedback about the game.

Overall, the college’s help was invaluable to a company too small to be able to afford focus group studies, Casemore says. The way content is developed will either make or break its 3D screen product for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The screen uses “lenticular” or lens-based 3D technology, Casemore explains. Tiny lenses on the screen are carved so different images are sent to your right and left eye and the content is synthesized by software so that it is refracted properly through these lenses.

Sheridan and Spatial View have gone on since the first collaboration to create another proof-of-concept game using the updated SDK. Dubbed “Sharkanoid”, the game could also soon appear in the App Store.


Sharkanoid (called Steronoid in this video) doesn’t include any sharks.

Though the name is misleading – there are no sharks involved – it’s a compound word combining Sheridan with Arkanoid, a popular old-school arcade game.
 
“I argued in favour of sharks, but I was overruled,” Eldred says.

The collaboration won’t end there either, Casemore says. A more ambitious, larger project involving Sheridan is in the works for this winter.

 

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