Friday, January 15, 2010

3D-TV: 1999 Technology

All the news reports about 3D-TV at CES this year got me wondering what the technology would be like.  After a little digging, I am sorry to say that it's nothing new.  I was experiencing this 11 years ago on my PC playing "Giants: Citizen Kabuto" and "Tomb Raider 2" using an Elsa 3D Revelator video card.

The 3d effect is achieved by using glasses that have LCD "shutters" that block one eye at a time from seeing the screen, switching back and forth many times a second.  Synchronized with an image on-screen that switches at the same same rate between two slightly different images give the illusion of 3D.  The more similar the two images are, the further the object looks away from you.  It's a very effective method, if a bit flickery.  The video card required special drivers to render essentially two versions of each screen, with the z distance controlling the difference in images.  A small IR-LED emitter on top of the computer monitor told the glasses when to switch eyes.

While the effect was cool, I eventually gave up on the technology.  The glasses were irritating to wear (and 3D-TV uses these same sorts of glasses) in light of the fact that I already wear glasses.  They just didn't give me that "kick back and have fun" feeling.  We'll see if future Budweiser commercials will feature a roomful of people watching sports wearing big 3D glasses.


  1. A few weeks ago I went with a bunch of our kids from school to the pantomime in Plymouth.

    Now, a panto is a very tricky tradition to describe to an American (I know from experience) and - frankly - nothing short of first-hand experience could hope to do it justice...but I digress.

    The two main attractions of this year's Plymouth panto were Christopher Biggins (an exuberant, tubby and monstrously camp old entertainer) and a '3-D genie'.

    Now I was hugely sceptical about this in a live piece of stagecraft, but when it was projected it really was incredible! A little overdone, maybe (there's no subtlety in panto) but genuinely impressive!

    The glasses, by the way, were simple plastic affairs (many get stolen) which seemed everso slightly tinted - I suspect they were simply the modern version of the old green and red ones we used to get sometimes with comics...


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