Four Dimensions with John Jupe

“I’ve been working on this for 28 years. It’s my life’s work,” says John Jupe – a truly remarkable man. What he’s doing in a small office on Cardiff Met’s Llandaff campus is mind blowing. He has invented a way to show a new dimension. Perception.

The recent surge in 3D cinema has been kind of weird. Hollywood blockbusters have largely capitalised on a technology which makes things only marginally more interesting. No matter how many times you remaster Star Wars: Episode 1, no matter how close Darth Maul’s lightsabre gets to my face, it’s still only ever going to be Episode 1. 3D gave us the ability to see depth in our film experience. Specks of dust shooting out from James Cameron’s Avatar were about as good as it got though and what a pain to put 3D glasses over normal glasses to watch a feature presentation! BORING.

Jupe’s company, Perceptual Technologies, not only removes the need to wear 3D glasses but it also adds a whole new dimension to our visual experience.

He shows me a video on a slightly curved screen on a chair in his office. It’s a first person view of a man watching TV in his living room. Then a friend of his enters the room and pitches him a Coke can… our eye is, like real life, instantly drawn to the can which is moving. This is perception – the fourth dimension.

“We’re getting rid of the picture plain, the flat surface. There isn’t one in vision! We’re trying to get closer to the formations and the way that we present information within the structure and the phenomenon of vision,” he tells me.

That sounds really complicated and I must admit that it takes quite a while for me to understand what he’s actually creating.

“That’s precisely what the artist has been showing us all this time. When he stopped painting in central perspective and colouring it in very accurately. Artists stopped doing that at around the 17th century and the renaissance,” he explains. “But actually, all our forms of visual media is still doing it! We’re chucking more and more bandwidth at pictures and expecting them to become more and more meaningful. They won’t!”

Jupe is adamant that our current ways of displaying images and creating pictures are not extensive enough. He’s got a point – when painters stopped ‘colouring in’ quaint pictures of French palaces in the 17th century and started looking at the figure of a thing, they created something phenomenally expressive. Think about it: have you ever really been moved more by a painting of courtiers in middle age Europe than by Van Gogh’s Starry Night? 

But it’s not just about making better cinema images. Jupe says that’s not at all the aim – it’s an offshoot:

“When you go to investors, what they want is dynamic 3D. But that’s a by-product. Once we’ve understood what the structure of vision is, we can make things 3D. But this is about the nature of communication. There’s much more at stake than just making things 3D,”  he continues while guiding me through a presentation of his product. Perceptual Technologies will profoundly change all forms of information display. That was the MOD telling us that! There’s piles and piles of information that no-one can access properly. What it is is that none of our information systems are perceptually structured.”

So what exactly does this mean? If you don’t use it for 3D cinema, what exactly can you use it for? Well, quite a lot actually. When the team at Perceptual Technologies had the intellectual property analysed, the result was that they found 200 commercial applications across 12 industries. Even though we’re not experts in IP, we can tell that 200 is a lot. Those applications range everything from the obvious usage in cinema and television to uses in military training (flight simulators, for example) to use in advertising.

This latter is particularly interesting. Jupe pulls out a slide showing a bottle of Bombay Sapphire on a table, surrounded by tropical fruits with an outdoorsey back ground image. He tells me to look at it and then look at a second one which is slightly tilted. He asked me which one looked more realistic and where are my eyes drawn.

“The second one and to the bottle” I reply.

Knowingly, he explains that the second one is actually a composite image made up using perceptual technology and that the first is the photograph. His technique really works. On closer inspection, you can see that there’s a lot of stuff wrong with the image – it is disjointed in places and some parts seem to be repeated. But it is a more accurate image in my head and, if an advertiser were to use the tools that Jupe has created, they’d be able to direct our perception of a product. Really, really impressive.

And how do you make these images? Well, at the moment, you don’t! The company is currently looking for investment to be able to handle all of the marketing of the service and plugins which create the images. Once they get that funding, they’ll begin to encourage people to start using the software to create the images.

***

What Jupe has created is really impressive. Seldom have I met anyone so convinced by their work that they are willing to dedicate themselves so intensely. This man is definitely one to watch at Capital Cardiff later this month when he pitches Perceptual Technologies to a room full of people.