Someday in the future, movies and video games might all be designed to be viewed in special virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift or the Samsung Gear that make us feel like we’re in the middle of the action.
But a former fiction writer and her famous tech husband have come up with a way to watch any movie today and have a similarly dazzling experience.
They have created a $50 pair of glasses, available now, that takes any content, like TV, Netflix shows, websites, photos, and turns them into a 3D effect, making them feel more real, more immersive.
The device and company, called Elsewhere, came out of stealth last week after about a year and half of development.
Inspired by love
It is the brainchild of founder CEO Wendellen Li and her well-known Valley technologist husband Aza Raskin. Raskin invented the 3D technology. He previously founded Massive Health (acquired by Jawbone), Songza (acquired by Aimee Street and later by Google), and Humanized, bought by Mozilla where he stayed and helped build the Firefox browser. (Raskin’s dad also helped create the first Mac at Apple.)
Raskin isn’t heavily involved in Li’s new company, beyond inventing the tech, he tells us. He left Jawbone about a year ago to fire up a new startup called “Other” and he’s not talking about it yet.
But he was the inspiration for Elsewhere, Li tells us. Prior to meeting Raskin and getting married, Li was an aspiring fiction writer.
After falling in love and taking a bunch of selfies with her husband, she was dissatisfied. She wanted a better sharing experience, like being in a novel. “We wanted to see out of each other’s eyes,” she says.
That got Raskin, a physicist, to thinking about how to manipulate light and optics to turn any photo into a 3D experience. He came up with an app that takes any video and puts it on a split screen, one for each eye, and these glasses.
Li handled finding designers, a manufacturer in China and the project’s other business needs. They bootstrapped the project themselves.
‘Immersive’ Netflix and chill
You attach the glasses to your phone and either view the videos on you phone, or turn on the camera to look at an object in the real world (such as a TV screen), through the camera.
Like VR, you can even turn your head to see more of the photo or video.
The two of them use the device to do “immersive Netflix and chill” they say.
Li still remembers watching “Game of Thrones” that way.
“That scene when Jon snow gets trampled. It was so intense,” Li tells us.
Business Insider demoed the device and we found the 3D effect to be fun, but sort of tame.
It didn’t make us feel like we had stepped into the movie or another world like a full-on virtual reality device. But we liked that it converted existing videos and movies into 3D, even ones you film yourself. And that $50 price makes it affordable enough for a holiday gift.