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Kinect's Grandaddy Running On an Apple IIe In 1978 81

An anonymous reader writes "30 years before words like performance capture, augmented reality, or avatars were around — let alone commonplace — experimental film and video artist Tom DeWitt created a system that features aspects of all of them. Pantomation let users interact in real-time with a digital environment and props. It was built using Apple IIe's, analog video gear, and lots of custom hacking and patching. He's currently working on a holographic 3D system that's similarly ahead of its time."
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Kinect's Grandaddy Running On an Apple IIe In 1978

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  • I seem to remember reading something about this in an old National Geographic picture book when I was like... 7. A slightly-overweight kid standing akimbo in front of an old Apple with a representation of him on the screen.

    Man, we remember the weirdest, most random things sometimes...

  • I find it quite hard to believe that anything he does *now* on his trusty Apple IIe is ahead of it's time ;)
  • ...or Tom DeWitt?
  • Apple IIe in 1978?! (Score:5, Informative)

    by smasch ( 77993 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @04:10PM (#35023476)
    Apple IIe in 1978?! It was probably an Apple II (released in 1977). The Apple IIe wasn't released until 1983. See Timeline and History of the Apple II series []
  • Is there an alternative link I can use? I want to read about these Apple computers and their interface.

  • by JoeCommodore ( 567479 ) <> on Thursday January 27, 2011 @04:24PM (#35023624) Homepage

    Reminds me of this other informative early computer related video: []

  • The IIe wasn't released until 1983. It would have been the Apple II, which was still a cool little machine. (Ok, I've still got two of them in the shed...)
  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by Even on Slashdot FOE ( 1870208 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @04:26PM (#35023654)

    Phantomation: Kinect, I am your Father.

    Kinect: That's impossible!

    Phantomation: Look into your source code, you know it to be true!

    Kinect: Nooooooo!!!!!

    • Phantomation: Excellent!

      Kinect: Excellent.

      Phantomation: Wait, did you just say 'excellent' because I said 'excellent?'

      Kinect: Uh, no.

      Phantomation: Excellent!

      Kinect: Excellent.

  • Amiga -- circa 1985 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by unil_1005 ( 1790334 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @04:27PM (#35023674)
    I just can't resist boasting that I was selling a commercial product, "LIVE!", for the Amiga. A video input board, it was used at the Amiga launch.

    Later a Canadian/Seattle company called VeryVivid wrote some very beautiful software for that board using the same principles as deWitt demonstrates. You could have birds fly to your hand, play virtual cymbals and drums, and may other effects.

    If anybody can locate video of that, I'd love to see it again
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I used to work for Vivid in the 90's, I think I may still have one of their old promo tapes. I'll have to dig it up and post it to Youtube.

      The two founders, Francis MacDougall and Vincent John Vincent, now run Gesturetek. [] There's vids there, and one of the pics is their old soccer game.

    • by derinax ( 93566 )

      There are examples on YouTube. This one is cool, check out 3:41 when he's manipulating words on the screen: []

    • Awesome. I came to this thread and immediately searched for 'Amiga' because I was hoping someone had that footage archived. I haven't seen it since 1990 or so. Specifically, I saw the sports demo (basketball & hockey, IIRC) with the "pulldown" menus, etc. Very cool stuff.

  • PRIOR ART???
  • Reading his paper [] reveals that the hologram in use is an interference pattern taken from a live subject, then immediately read into the computer. It is not a 3DTV holo that floats in your living room for you to watch.

    Still awesomely cool though. Why did evolution never invent this method to let human vision capture depth more directly?

    • by tobiah ( 308208 )

      link is broken

  • by kwerle ( 39371 ) <> on Thursday January 27, 2011 @04:50PM (#35023966) Homepage Journal

    I remember seeing some of this as part of an elementary school field trip in the late 70's. Maybe to the LA Museum of Modern Art? It was neat, and all, but I wasn't a fan of modern art - even back then.

  • by The Grim Reefer2 ( 1195989 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @04:54PM (#35024018)

    When I clicked on the link my computer spontaneously rebooted. Apparently it's still ahead of my time too.

    • When I clicked on the link my computer spontaneously rebooted. Apparently it's still ahead of my time too.

      If you're running Windows, that was just Microsoft trying to protect its patents and hide prior art from you...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Acorn (of bbc micro fame) productised a comparable thing somewhere in the 90s. Worked pretty well too. Might see if you can revive it through riscos on a beagle board.

  • I wonder how many patents Mr. Dewitt's activity undermines!

  • Infact this is positively patent invalidating.
    • by jtnix ( 173853 )

      Possibly, but remember the Kinect has depth sensing capabilities and has much higher resolution. I am willing to bet the patent(s) applied for by Microsoft incorporate this detail.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    hey - you're right, it was a II, not at IIe. Like someone pointed out, it was originally developed on the PDP-8 and ported to the Apple II, but I think the significance of it is still pretty apparent. Re: the holographic stuff, that doesn't apply to Pantomation - it's much more current, and believe it or not, much more futuristic, too. I currently work with Tom, and you can check out what we're doing @

  • by astrosmash ( 3561 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @07:51PM (#35026420) Journal

    The mini-computer they talk about in this video is the PDP-8/L [], not an Apple II, although the system was later ported to Apple II in the early 80s.

    It's worth noting that the original Apple II (and most other microcomputers from the early 70s) would have been much more powerful, cheaper, and easier to program than the PDP-8, and the Apple II would have been an excellent choice for a project like this, due to its expandable and well-documented hardware architecture. However, I'm sure they started development of this system well before the original Apple II would have been well known or even available.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Another early innovator in this area is Myron Krueger. His installation "videoplace" (1972-1990) was a lot like what Sony's Eyetoy would recreate later.

    It was based around a colourful silhouetted video of the user (visually very similar to the iPod commercials). One of the many spectacular things it could do was what it could superimpose a little creature that tried to climb to the top of your head.

    To see the climbing creature skip to 3:40 here:

  • I’ve never read Slapdash, so thanks Scott Elofson for the heads up on this. “Anonymous” has got to be a former RPI student. This work was done from 1977-87 at the Video Synthesis and the Image Processing Labs. It started on a PDP-8L and migrated in 1983 to an Apple II. That made it portable, and it was shown in live demos all around like at SIGGRAPH (’86 & ’87) and at the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris (’83-’84). There are videos, so I’ll find

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.