DIY 3D (OMG!)

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You've probably heard of HD -- now available in widely-available consumer video cameras (under $1,000) and viewable on the latest-greatest high-res flatscreens, you can enjoy the magic of home-grown high-def (or a least a shaky, poorly-lit approximation of it) in your very own home! But in the fast-moving world of home entertainment, that's old news. The latest gadgetry to come out of this year's CES (consumer electronics show), is from two companies that have introduced devices that will make it possible to create and watch your own 3D movies.

The funky-looking semi-anthropomorphic toy above is actually a webcam, and its eyeballs are two cameras. Called the Minoru, its cameras are set about the same distance apart as human eyes, meaning the images, when played back in such a way that a viewer can separate right from left, will be in 3D. The amazing thing about this, to my mind, is that technology has skipped over its usual route into our homes -- big expensive shiny gadgets that exist at the top of the electronics food chain; I would've expected a $5,000 high-def camcorder with two lenses, for instance. Instead, by going lower-tech (and, I have to assume, cheaper) these companies have set their sights on the broadest possible audience for their product -- web users.

Theoretically, this will bring video chat into a new era. How trippy would it be not only to chat with a friend on the other side of the globe, but to do it in 3D? The one big drawback? It's the same as it's always been with 3D: you've got to wear those accursed glasses, or else this is all you'll see (I'm assuming our readers aren't wearing 3D glasses right now):

... that is to say, it's kinda blurry and weird-looking. You need the glasses, of course, so your brain can separate the left and right-eye channels while you're watching, thus turning it into 3d in your confused brain (your visual cortex fuses the two images into one it perceives to be 3D). But this technology has been around since the 1920s, you say -- why haven't they invented glasses-less 3D yet?

Well, it turns out they have, and it might be coming to a home theater system near you very soon. It's a new kind of television screen that's composed of a series of tiny transparent cylindrical lenses called lenticules, which allow each of a viewer's eyes to have a slightly different view of picture being displayed, thus simulating 3D. But there's a drawback -- it only works if you're sitting in a narrow "sweet spot" in front of your TV, within a 60-degree angle. According to ABC News:

"There are 'sweet spots', so you have to sit within a narrow range, about 60 degrees, and there are a number of sweet spots where you get the effect and but if you move your head a bit it goes away again. So it works pretty well but it's not real holographic 3D."

But Mr Peters says 3D films are likely to remain a novelty because they are not a relaxing way to be entertained. "Your brain actually has to work harder while watching a 3D film, so you get tired quickly," he said.

Sounds like we'll be wearing the glasses for some time to come.

January 14, 2009 - 5:53am
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