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updated 6/14/2011 7:48:48 PM ET 2011-06-14T23:48:48

Remember the old virtual reality headsets that were "the future" a couple decades ago? Well, Forth Dimension Displays is bringing them back, and making them better in the process.

The upgraded headsets could improve 3-D simulations for everything from video games to military and education uses.

Forth Dimension Displays brought its Replicating Reality demonstration to the E3 gaming expo and we had a chance to try it out. The headset contains proprietary displays that produce different images for each eye, naturally introducing a 3-D effect. But more important, motion tracking allows players to "look around" in the virtual world in the same way they do in the real world: by turning their heads.

The ability to look anywhere with natural head movements, instead of relying on a static view that must be moved by a mouse or other controller, is natural and doesn't require a tutorial. This makes the experience much more immersive.

We had a chance to try out the Forth Dimension system at E3, which demoed a simple racing game. We sat in a chair with a steering wheel and pedals, basically a standard racing game setup, but wore the headset instead of looking at a screen. It was a completely different experience, not just because the game was in 3-D, but because we could look around inside the car or out the side window simply by turning our heads.  When you drive, you naturally look up at the rearview mirror, out the side window or down at the radio. Being able to do that in a game made it feel that much more real and immersive.

Surprisingly, this technology isn't meant primarily for the game industry. Forth Dimension Displays is actually looking into other consumer and military applications. Representatives told TechNewsDaily that military leaders are looking into creating training simulations that are low risk to soldiers, but still provide a realistic experience because trainees can be shown any scenario and react realistically.

But there are even more interesting applications.

"Imagine being an architect, or someone wanting to build a home. How great would it be to put this on and walk through your new house before it's built? You could fully visualize any changes and see it from any angle," Ursula Posch, the company's communications manager, told TechNewsDaily.

There are also possibilities for education. The headset could be used to give a first-person view of famous landmarks or important places, especially the ones that are out of range of the big yellow bus.

The technology is more of a proof-of-concept than a consumer-ready device at this point, so don't expect to go on virtual adventures soon. But the company is already developing a lighter and smaller version of the headset, and it's relatively simple to integrate with existing games and software. When it is ready, there may just be too many things to do with it.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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