Tuesday, May 12, 2009

3D TV now - at CeBIT

CeBIT Australia is a business technology exhibition event, an offshoot of the one in Germany, which is the largest in the world.

It can be somewhat dry however, despite attempts to jazz it up with bright colours, baubles, takeaways, giveaways (especially iPods, about a year or so back), lollies, and - this year - the surprising appearance of a few women with obviously more experience with - well, appearance, than say software skills or hardware marketing.

Yet one of the most arresting sights this year was hardware. The company was a Korean one called Pavonine, and it was marketing a range of 3D screens called Miracube. The first screen I looked at required special glasses. And the film loop it showed was quite impressive - albeit it reminded me of a recent 3D cinema release I took the kids to, Monsters vs Aliens. The usual tricks of objects projecting out of the screen, and the occasional item flung out at the viewer. That film was more effective, but it was still quite impressive to see it on the small screen - 3D TV at home, potentially.

But the second screen was even more impressive - it was displaying 3D with no need for special glasses - naked, as it were. A real wow effect.

There were some caveats, however. The loop displayed on the screen was a selection of static images - yet still in 3D, with some features projecting out of the screen. However, to maintain the effect it was necessary to focus in a certain way at the screen. It was rather like that fad about ten years ago for printed 3D pictures. The trick there was that the backgrounds were always patterned; the final image was actually generated by computers to achieve the effect; and you had to focus on the page in a certain way. Many people found it difficult to see the hidden 3D image, but I usually had no problem - it was a matter of relaxing the gaze: in fact, it was achieved by moving the focal point of ones eyes away from the surface of the page.

I'm not sure whether this screen worked in the same way. I could tell however that the effect was achieved by providing different images - based on horizontal lines - to each eye, exploiting the (relatively small) distance between the eyes. Yet if I moved slightly, the effect was lost and the image jarred; I also had to maintain a particular focus to achieve the effect.

It would be great if the effect could be achieved without the riders. Although it was a bit of a strain in the end, the effect was really awesome. However, if I'm right and it is based on vertical lines, it may prove a problem translating the technology to a broadcast situation - which is, I believe, based on scanned horizontal lines.

Later, as luck would have it, the first person I started describing this technology to was Adam, whose stereoscopic capabilities are negligible, since it looks like his eyes focus differentially - that is, they don't work together. He said the best way for him to look at 3D was to close one eye - which rather defeated the effect.

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