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Does the 3D future start tomorrow,
or is it already here ?

By the time you read this article it will have been written in the past, maybe a few days, maybe longer.

In that time more announcements will have been made on items that existed at the time this was written, but I am as yet unaware of any new developments yet to be announced will have been made.

Currently we are in the middle of a recession or depression, but we constantly see new developments, some become a commercial reality some get lost.

3D is now a reality, lets look at what is happening now, and what we might expect to see at some time.


In the last month I have seen, and used for the first time, two 3D televisions, both exhibited at the Ideal Home Show, and using two different technologies, one polarising lenses, the other shutter glasses.

One TV by LG used polarising glasses, and will be stocked by ASK, but not yet, their website is at  www.askdirect.co.uk, This TV produced a good effect and was pleasant to watch, and with loads of cheap polarising glasses it was easy to get to see and watch for some time.

The second set was produced by Sony. The Sony Bravia KDL-HX903 3DTV and was on the Virgin Media stand, this used the shutter glasses and as there were only two pairs there was a long queue and you didn't get to see it for long. Even so it was tough on your eyes. The girl on the stand said that it was supposed to run off a Playstation3 but their playstation3 had gone wrong and they were running without it, so the results were not as good as they could be.  Sony have a section of their website devoted to 3D.

Sony have a range of 3D TV's, announced on February 12th 2010, ranging in price from 1400-3500 and includes 2 pairs of special shutter glasses, more glasses cost 100 each. These are special and other shutter glasses will not work with these sets.

Panasonic and Samsung also have announced 3D TV's to be available soon. Panasonic have a 3D global site, and a second European 3D site,   they like Sony appear to be going to use shutter glasses.

Virgin Media announced a few months back that it had carried out tests using its cable network to send 3D TV and this could be done over their existing network as soon as demand warranted it. 

The BBC has said it plans for some of the 2012 Olympics to be in 3D.

Sky   has plans to start transmitting in 3D by the end of this year, but have brought this forward and the SKY 3D channel now goes live in a few days time, on April 3rd 2010. They have over 1000 pubs signed up to show 3D TV of football matches in May, so you should be able to get to see this technology in action soon.  Initially Sky subscribers on at least some of their packages don't need to pay more for the 3D channel. They have a special section of their website on 3D services

In some ways 3D TV is disappointing, its using glasses still, while 3D without glasses is now available, and it may be worth holding back for a year for the next generation of 3D TVs that don't require you to wear special glasses.

If we have to wear special glasses perhaps we should question why we need the TV screen at all, with our own screens built in we could even have people in the same place watching different channels, or at different points in the programmes or movie. Carl Zeiss has come up with 3D glasses that are completely self contained, so no screen is required. See a PDF on this.

3D Laptop Computers

In the last month the first two 3D laptop computers have been announced, but I haven't seen these yet. I have also read about the development of a 3D screen that does not require glasses, similar to the one I saw on the back of the 3D camera at the Focus-on-Imaging show, that will be in some of the next generation of mobile phones.

We are going to need 3D screens and software, perhaps we will soon see a new Photoshop version with full 3D support. A new version is due very soon now.

Nintendo have announced a new version of their handheld games consul, the 3DS which will have 3D screens which don't need the user to wear glasses. More details available in June 2010 and models in the shops at the end of this year or early next.

3D Photography

I have also held and used at the Focus show the first 3D digital consumer camera produced by Fujifilm, the FinePix REAL 3D W1 with its own 3D 2.8 inch LCD display screen on the back, and to go with it a 3D screen the Finepix REAL 3D V1 that allows images to be viewed in 3D without the need of any glasses. This is 400 by 600 pixels and 8 inches diagonally. This screen worked well, although had a limited viewing angle. It uses what they call barrier technology but is similar to a Lenticular print.

They also have available a processing printer for event photography that produced 3D prints that again do not require glasses to use, and I saw some of the images it produced. This produces Lenticular images.

Fujiflim have a PDF brochure available covering the REAL 3D range. If you want to see more on the camera, a point and shot model, then see its instruction manual available as a Pdf, and is available from around 400.

Some time ago now I had 3D photographs produced on a camera produced in Canada, this was in effect 6 Canon cameras in a  box. In the last month I have also received some 3D photos and details of a special device from a company in Ireland. So I have now seen 3D photographs from 3 sources that do not require glasses to view.

Also the latest cinema block busters have set new records, and is of course in 3D, as are many others now coming out.

On a visit to The Deep, an aquarium in Hull, I watched two 3D videos.

I have for a long time been able to take 3D photos with 1 or 2 cameras, and to produce images that can be viewed with special glasses. I could also produce from my 3D photos the glassless 3D prints but at the moment the cost per image is to high.

So currently 3D is available in the form of movies, and starting to become more widely available in other ways.

So do we need two lenses for 3D?

Currently 3D movies and 3D photos are taken either with a single camera that is moved between two or more photos or two or more linked cameras. With a  point and shoot you can produce a small camera with two lenses, but if you were to produce a DSLR with two lenses and gearing to run these together it would be bulky and expensive. For 3D to become main stream for everyone and especially for DSLR users, we need a yet to be announced technology, so lets look at what this might involve.

I get sent information on software that will convert standard 2D (flat) photos into 3D, but have yet to experiment with any, and have seen 3D generated from depth maps, where a single camera takes a sequence of shots at different focus settings.

So imagine now in the future that your camera was to burp rather than click and in this burp it took a rapid sequence of images, at slightly different focus settings and then as you upload the image some special software used this to take the first image and add a depth mask, generating the image in 3D. Or perhaps the processing power of the camera can do this and store the original image in a 3D format.

Can we expect to see 3D DSLR cameras?

Camera manufacturers like others need to bring out new models, to have reasons why you will consider your expensive camera to be obsolete and to buy the next new one. If we all were to say, our kit is as good as we need and we have all we need now, then their sales would drop to next to nothing with only new entrants and a few expanding equipment, and this would not allow them to survive. So they bring out new models, with new facilities, improvements and the like on a regular basis. Recently these changes have been inconsequential and many of us will have decided that the change does not justly further investment so there must be a  major drive now, and particularly as the recession starts to ease, to bring out an offering we cannot live without. We never get to hear in advance of Nikon or Canon new models, so the fact that we don't know if one is coming or when it will appear is nothing different to the norm.

I would not be surprised to see others get in first, perhaps Sony, LG or an extended range from FujiFilm.  Canon got into digital ahead of Nikon, and it took Nikon some time to recapture the ground they had lost, and other manufacturers may see this as a way to leapfrog the big two.

Printers that can print in 3D can also be expected, I am expecting to see printers that print onto sheets of special transparent 3D material, where you turn the sheet over to see the image through the sheet instead of having images on the top surface as we do now. This must be attractive to printer manufacturers as they could sell the material and special inks. The only technically challenging part of this is you need to load the material very accurately, but a small mark on the edge that the printer could detect and locate its printing according to this may be the solution.

For magazines the process is likely to involve either an overlay over 3D Photos or a special rapid dry plastic encapsulation over the print, producing the same glasses free 3D images.

So expect to see books coming out with 3D illustrations, magazines in 3D, and more, like the move to colour from black and white once one does it the others will want to quickly catch up.

See more on 3D in the section on 3D.


By: Keith Park   Section: 3D Section Key:
Page Ref: futures_tomorrow Topic: 3D  Last Updated: 03/2010

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