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3D & the Technology Behind

People flocking in to the 3D theatre projections became a world phenomenon in the past five years.  What’s more, 3D aficionados can now follow 3D television channels directly in their living room. Internet surfers enjoy now the dedicated “3D View Style” menu on Everything, grace to a century time painstaking research, blooming splendourously due to the unimaginated speed of technology developments.  Human perception again (!) is distorted and we live the illusion of enhanced depths.

How did software and hardware facilitate the boom of these previously called “niche” projections? What are the effects upon our physical sensors, or the benefits human kind can take from this technology? What is the next challenge? These are just a few questions that this article choses to analyze and present our thoughts.

The Techniques

First, we should concentrate on the simple fact that 3D (three-dimensional) films and presentations deal mainly with moving pictures with an illusive enhanced depth perception. There are two main possibilities to reach this result: either the viewer will use a device (glasses, lenses) to filter the separate offset images to each eye, or some source will split the images directionally into the subject eyes, without any device on them.

Stereoscopy is currently the most popular method for generating 3D impressions.  We are experiencing the fast spread of stereoscopy due to the big scale entertainment corporations promoting 3D films in cinema theatres. The eye is added by several types of lenses: anaglyph system uses red & cyan lenses, polarization system uses polarized lenses, and alternate-frame sequence uses active shutter lenses and the latest HMD (head mounted displays) consist in using separate displays for each eye, while lenses have the role to relax the eye.

Autostereoscopy is the latest trendsetter. This method is able to generate 3D images without any eye adding accessoires.  This year’s top launch, Nintendo’s 3DS portable game console hit the ranks by its ability to produce “3D effects without any special glasses”. This method goes further to solve the accommodation for the motion parallax and for wider viewing angles: either there will be put in place an eye-tracking system or there will be displayed multiple views. Some displays featured for autostereoscopic purpose are: parallax barrier, lenticular, volumetric, electro-holographic and light field displays.

3D Systems & Technology

Based on the previous mentioned 3D imagery generation, the technology has known various developments.For start, the Real D technology is the most common technology in the field. It is based on circular polarization, requiring a silver screen in the cinema theatres. Next, the Dolby 3D system allows both 2D and 3D projections, using wavelength multiplex visualisation. The main advantage over the Real D is that the silver screen is not needed for projections.The Digital 3D category comprises more systems having in common the presentation and shooting of films, presentations or video games directly into 3D technology, or the latter post-production processing to add 3D effects.

Thus, the XPanD 3D system uses alternate image flashes for each eye, individually. The special shutter effect glasses used for XPanD 3D are an electronic device with LCD lenses. Each lens alternates between transparent and opaque, acquiring only the intended image for each eye, at a certain time. Also, infra-red signal is broadcasted in the auditorium to be picked up by the glasses to synchronise the shutter effect.

Master Image 3D systems combine stereoscopic and autostereoscopic technologies for cinema theatres, television and presentations but also for mobile devices. IMAX 3D, as one of the largest promoters of “multiple-D experiences”, is a system developed also for cinema theatres and it is lately expanded for the digital world also.

Of course there are so many other technologies and systems that worth to pay attention for, yet we chose to cover the most popular ones, in order to have a clear understanding of their evolution and where the public is at assimilating them.

The Paradigm-Shift

As the Founding Director of Standford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab states, the last twelve months events generated a real paradigm-shift among the thinking of international vietual scientists. If a few decades ago, the idea of virtual conferences with our own avatars seemed pure science-fiction, today we are clearily put in fornt of a major shift in our approach towards human interaction. The augmented reality technologies, the 3D projections developments, enhanced by heptic simulation pull modern man to have a broader active dimension. Physical presence and space will no longer be a constraint. Programming your avatar to take specific actions while your real body and mind is focused else-where will be possible.

The Critics

Both the narrow sector of 3D developments and the broader idea of virtuality are being praised and criticised. First, 3D non-afficionado audience claims its lack of utility and poor experience compared to the marketed value. Justified criticism is brought to the feature films producers who emphasize on the 3D effects over the artistic value and of the story line. Third, there is also medical concern about current 3D technologies, since they did not solve the eye accommodation issue with the illusive depth created. Another frequent complaint is that viewers feel nausea or experience headache during and after projection.

Again, the ones who can most profit from these technologies are the aerospace sector, the military sector ad the medical sector. The ability to analyse digitally reproduced environments, situations and objects in three dimensions is uncomparabe with any previous technologies of the kind. It depends on our ethics and morality how we choose to use these discoveries. (D.C.)