The signs indicate that as technological developments increase and more content is produced we are going to have more opportunities to engage with the 3D viewing experience. ESPN started their new 3D network by broadcasting World Cup footage in 3D in June 2010. Discovery in conjunction with Sony and IMAX plan to launch their own 3D service sometime in 2011 once they have the regulatory approvals. The movie “Avatar” has taken more than three quarters of a billion dollars at the box office so far in the USA. All new animation films made by the major studios will be 3D ready and the back catalog is being enabled with special algorithms to make them compatible with the 3D viewing experience. But the fly in the ointment has been the need for the viewer to wear special kinds of spectacles to be able to appreciate the full 3D effect.
However, that may be a thing of the past.
N4D’s stereoscopic 3D system content creation and stereoscopic visualization software development capabilities are the result of over twenty years of research driven by their lead scientist, Carroll Lastinger. Instead of following the convention of earlier years of going through a process of mechanical and technological trial and error he asked himself questions such as, “How does the brain work? How does the mind interact with visual stimuli?” Pursuing the answers to these questions took him to non-traditional engineering research areas such as neurology and cognition.
According to Mills Vautrot, “[Carroll} discovered over twenty different [visual] cues that are rules that need to be adhered to in making 3D content otherwise you will have a non-effective, uncomfortable experience; nausea, headache etc. That set of rules is kind of like the ingredients for making a really good cake. You put a little too much salt you are going to have to balance it with something else.”
Carroll Lastinger’s research not only gave him the criteria for creating a stereoscopic 3D imaging model that showed how each of these visual cues related, interacted and balanced with each other but also produced results which allowed him to create content that can be used on auto-stereoscopic (no glasses needed) 3D monitors.
Even with this knowledge a considerable amount of work still had to be done. To quote Mills Vautrot, “we created a content player that we believe is one of the first in the market place to allow the viewer to see multiple panels on a no-glasses needed 3D monitor. So you have a banner ad across the top ( with advertisement of auto dealer or any such thing), you have a panel center right taking up maybe thirty percent of the screen (displaying weather or local content) and a thin panel across the bottom (displaying live feeds such as CNN or any RSS feed.) Then there is a major screen area that is seventy percent or eighty percent of the central area of the screen that’s showing the 3D advertisements.”
“To have all that happening in stereoscopic 3D on an eight view monitor is quite difficult. We were able to create software able to perform these processes that and do it in a manner that allows real-time changes to the screen configuration and to the size of each banner. So the screen could be divided into two areas or it could be divided into seven areas or eight areas. Each area that is created can be automatically changed as you like.”
N4D are the creators of the content and software for the auto-stereoscopic 3D viewing system and the hardware is manufactured by other companies. Primarily designed for digital signage applications with the addition of some military and medical uses and it will be some time before the system will have widespread use in the domestic environment. It is a highly technical and labour intensive process to create the monitors. The system uses high end computer power and works in conjunction with a specially designed player. At the moment the package costs about $12,000 for a 42″ monitor. However, prices are expected to fall as more people come to take advantage of the technology and the system.
Also, the monitor uses a lenticular screen which has a slight drawback for domestic use in that there are eight ideal ‘sweet’ spots from which to view the screen and benefit from the full 3D effect. For most of us this may mean moving the furniture around but not everyone can do that. These limitations are a result of the physics of this kind of technology.
Nevertheless, by using the lessons derived from our biology and how our brain really works we can now, if present in one of those sweet spots, enjoy the full 3D viewing experience without having to wear glasses.