3D’s a funny old game. We’ve gone from red and green tinted glasses, watching men poking ladders and smoking at us from our TV screens, through the craze for autostereograms (coloured patterns where you stare until cross-eyed in the vain hope that a dolphin or dinosaur will leap out at you) to arrive at the current craze for 3D cinema experiences, with another pair of glasses, this time modeling a grey tint.
Hang on a minute, that’s not progress, we’ve gone full circle.
Somewhere on this quest for the third dimension the film studios and Sky have commandeered the innovation process and we’ve ended up with the general public settling for second best. Even Sony have just announced their intention to add 3D capabilities to their TV’s, Laptops and PS3 consoles by 2010 – using glasses again!
So what happened to the promise of Minority Report-style interfaces and genuine multi-layered interactivity? At Brandwidth, we’ve been working with 3D plasma screen technology for several years, starting with a project for Toyota where we launched the Auris with a full-size rotating car, emerging from liquid mercury and projected in a purpose-built cinema on a Musion holographic system. This content was then replicated across the UK in concept stores on Phillips 3D WOW plasma screens.
So what’s a 3D plasma screen then? Well, remember lenticular prints? Probably not by that name but they were the printed images with a ridged plastic finish that you could turn from side to side and the picture would change to simulate depth. The effect was achieved by alternating strips of images showing angles of a picture corresponding to views for left and right eyes – viola the third dimension.
3D plasma screens work in much the same way, with alternating strips of moving image creating the very convincing illusion of depth, working on three planes – level with the screen frame (as with a regular monitor), then into the screen and out. I can eulogise until the cows come home but without the evidence in front of you, you’ll have to take my word that this is very engaging stuff.
So why the pictures of the camera? Fuji have just released their first compact 3D digital camera for the home market (the Fujifilm Real 3D W1 for around £450) and a digital picture frame to display the remarkable content (another £400). The W1 uses similar technology to the Phillips plasma screen and displays 3D imagery on the 2.8in screen on the back of the camera.
Rather than leave the shots trapped on the camera (as the file format won’t display in 3D on a Mac or PC), the photos or video can be beamed via infra-red to the 8in 3D digital frame to entertain in true Harry Potter style.
I won’t go into detail about the camera’s features other than to say that the two lenses and 10 megapixel CCD’s capture the view of left and right eyes in order to process the 3D image – it works and that’s all you need to know.
Another alternative to a digital display is to send your shots off to Fuji, who will create lenticular prints at £5 a go (actually, pretty good value).
I hope Fuji find a lot of early adopters to bolster the popularity of their camera and frame. It feels a bit like the old days of VHS versus Betamax, where VHS won because it was the easy option, rather than the best.
If the glasses weighed as much as a Betamax recorder it might be a different story.