By Evan Ackerman
If somebody were to say to me (as people are wont to do), “Quick! Imagine a machine that transports you to an alternate universe!” I would probably picture something that looks (and sounds) almost exactly like TWISTER. TWISTER stands for Telexistence Wide-angle Immersive STEReoscope, which means that while you’re not technically transported to an alternate universe, the machine creates one all around you. In 3D. Without any of those annoying and inconvenient accessories like glasses.
TWISTER is comprised of a four foot tall cylindrical array of 50,000 LEDs. The LEDs spin around the viewer 1.6 times per second (or at about 22 mph), creating one continuous 360 degree panorama. The cool part is that as it spins, the LED array draws a slightly different image in front of each eye, which causes you to see things in 3D. This is called binocular parallax… If you cover one eye, and then cover your other eye, you’ll notice that the world looks slightly different out of each one. This is how you perceive depth, and is what TWISTER replicates.
Needless to say, you can’t get the effect through your monitor, but here’s a video of TWISTER in action:
The cameras inside TWISTER reveal its purpose: making long distance 3D telephone calls. I would love to start speculating on other uses for one of these, but the fact is that it’s ginormous and pretty dangerous looking. I mean, what if you accidentally cause a resonance cascade or something? Talk about alternate universes…