While looking for a decent "3D" monitor, I happened across an interesting piece in Gizmodo from last September reviewing the iZ3D "3D gaming monitor". Interesting for two reasons - firstly, a bit of further research suggests that the third big Hollywood push for 3D cinema is starting to turn into a bandwagon, and secondly because the author of the piece can't see the "3D" effect that the monitor is supposed to provide. The iZ3D display uses the 3D visualisation technique known as stereoscopy, in which a 3D effect is produced by sending different images to each eye. Kaufman asserts that around 8% of people are incapable of perceiving "3D" in a stereoscopic image, due to lazy eyes and other binocular vision dysfunctions. Interestingly, this figure is similar to the fraction of the population who are "colour blind", with impaired colour perception of one kind or another. I reckon that the Gizmodo author probably falls into that former 8%.

To me, this calls for a broader look at what we think "3D" is. Obviously that 8% manages to navigate through life without bumping into things all the time, or the streets would be full of slapstick and the eyesight component of driving tests would be somewhat more rigourous. Indeed, people who have lost their sight in one eye entirely can drive perfectly safely and legally in the UK and many other countries. Those people can see 3D things just fine. And frankly, so can anyone who watches camera-originated (as opposed to hand- or computer-animated) films and television on old-fashioned "2D" screens. Most of the time the inability of the viewer to use their binocular depth perception doesn't hinder their appreciation of the programmes. (Having said that, I find watching many sports to be quite frustrating on television - when a ball spends a long time in the air I can never quite work out where it's going to land.)

The general question is, how do we perceive depth? And how can we improve television to give a better impression of depth? I'll answer those questions (at least partially, because they're quite complicated) in a future post.
  • Posted: 19/03/07 12:46AM
  • Category: BBC

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