Taking inspiration from Star Trek and entomology classes in 4-H, an inventor in Lansing is making science fact out of science fiction.


Taking inspiration from Star Trek and entomology classes in 4-H, an inventor in Lansing is making science fact out of science fiction.

Kurtis Ritchey, chief executive officer of Virtual Video Reality, was in Chicago this week, putting two patents for technology he developed up for bid at an auction by Ocean Tomo. The starting bid for the patents at the auction is $10,000, he said.

According to Ritchey, the technology holds the possibility for a three-dimensional, immersive “holodeck.”

“It’s basically a holographic display all around you,” he said.

Making that possible, Ritchey said, is the “RealityLens,” a field-of-view lens that attaches to a standard high-definition camcorder.

The lens has a spherical coverage area, filming images 360 degrees to create a panoramic image. Ritchey said those images are then loaded into a computer program which processes them for display.

One option for that display is a room where all surfaces serve as screens for the images, but Ritchey said a more affordable option would be to use a head set to view and interact with the images.

The idea for the design of the 360-degree lens came from Ritchey’s time studying entomology with the Lansing Busy Bees 4-H club, he said.

“I started thinking about the compound eyes of the insect,” he said. “That was really a big inspiration.”

Ritchey said the computer technology used to process and project the images filmed by the lens would also be able to produce three-dimensional, interactive avatars created from video images and mapped onto computer models.

Ritchey said he began designing and thinking about this system in 1979, wanting to go beyond computer graphics renderings for virtual reality simulations.

However, it would be some time before technology would allow him to complete the system.

Though he now has a working prototype for the RealityLens, Ritchey said he does not have the funds to produce the complete system, which is why he decided to auction off the patents.

He said he has envisioned a number of uses for the new technology, including immersive video games and educational presentations.

“You can imagine the applications,” he said.

Ritchey said filmed video of a rainforest could be projected into a room — animals included — creating an interactive learning environment for teachers and students.

In addition to other military and governmental applications, Ritchey said he has gotten some strange questions.

“I’ve had people approach me about living forever in one of those,” he said.

After thinking for a moment, Ritchey said immortality as an avatar might be possible in the future.

“I suppose you could do that if you get all those biometrics into a computer model,” he said.