3-D TV Not Ready for Prime Time

A panel on the future of 3-D technologies agreed that more electronics advances are needed to make 3-D ubiquitous in the next five years without the need for special viewing glasses. Jim Mainard, head of product development at DreamWorks Animation, and moderator of the Siggraph panel, said "3-D has come to the cinema as unique experiences. What will it take to make it in the home-- and without glasses?"

Added Nick Holliman, senior lecturer at Durham University (U.K), "We need to study the limits of 3-D technology and build tools to make it ubiquitous." Holliman said 3-D is not portable across all display sizes, nor is it the same experience from one person to the next. "There are three characteristics that mark the 3-D experience: distance from the display; the resolution of the display, which are directly proportional to the experience; and the [interpupilary distance], which is inversely proportional to the experience." IPD is the distance between the eyes, and varies singnificantly among age groups. Holliman called for "better design for 3-D and [working] on 3-D solutions from the start to achieve the same quality in notebooks and games as in cinema."

Rob de Vogel, senior director for Philips 3-D Solutions, said more work is needed on autostereoscopic displays, that need to be domain specific, coexistence between 2- and 3-D infrastructures and avoiding format wars. His company has introduced high-priced 3D systems.

"We are stuck in a 2-D world," said Rob Engle, senior stereographer and digital effects supervisor at Sony Pictures ImageWorks. "We need to start thinking in terms of 3-D. The computing power will be available, but the mindset needs to change," adding that 2-D content should not be "stretched for 3-D displays." There also needs to be a feedback loop from the viewer back to the content source. "Maybe we use the Internet for that so that the content provider can adjust the transmission according to each individual's 3-D technology," said Engle.

Holliman said research seeks to accommodate multiple viewing locations and collaboration. Andrew Kostrzewski of Physics Optics Corp. added that holography might be the "more than 3-D" solution: "A holographic system with its many sides allows each person to specify their point of viewing."

Medical applications for 3-D were shown at Siggraph by TrueVision Systems Inc. It focuses on visualization during microsurgery, and has patented digital, real-time 3-D HD vision technology. The company has released a next-generation image capture module that fits most surgical microscopes and provides 1,280 x 1,024 pixel images. The optical image is converted to a digital video stream, which is fed to a 3-D display in real-time. The camera processes at nearly 2 Gb/s, providing live video at 60 frames per second for each eye and recorded video at 30 fps for each eye. The proprietary electronics design stitches together two high-definition views into a single synchronized stereo data stream.

By Nicolas Mokhoff, EE Times