Five ways to enjoy 3D right now
Just because the broadcasters and TV manufacturers insist on spending years around board-room tables deciding how they're going to deliver 3D to our homes, it doesn't mean that we have to wait to get our fix of stereoscopic images. So, while their coffee gets cold and digestives go soft, here are five ways that you can experience the rebirth of the new wave on your own time scale.
User-generated 3D content is huge. Surprisingly huge. Go to Flickr, type in "3D" and you'll find somewhere in the region of 200,000 genuine 3D images. Some are side-by-side stereograms, requiring the viewer to go cross eyed or focus beyond the screen and into the distance, and many are also red/cyan anaglyphs. If you want less of a headache and a better 3D effect, then grab yourself a set of red/cyan glasses and enjoy the show.
If we're talking user-generated content then there's no way that YouTube wasn't going to get in on the action. True to form the web video behemoth announced the support for 3D streaming on 20 July this year and users can now turn any uploaded footage into 3D simply by adding the tag "yt3d:enable=true". The player then gives you a drop down menu which allows you to switch between anaglyph, side-by-side and even full colour interlaced stereoscopy, and all sorts of variations on the themes. Searching for the tag calls up around 5000 videos at the moment but once word spreads it's sure to grow very fast indeed. So, if you want to join the 3D revolution as well as view it, this is by far the simplest way.
This time you'll need to invest a little cash, and more than a couple of quid for red/cyan glasses, the improvement, however, will be well worth it. The current wave of video glasses, such as those manufactured by Vuzix, also happen to be 3D enabled. They'll take any form of 3D input - be it interlaced images, side-by-side footage or alternate frame 3D - and display one image to one eye and the other image to the other for your brain to convert into a stereo 3D effect. So, if your mobile has a video-out function - iPhone, N95 etc - you can stream full 3D footage over Wi-Fi or 3G wherever you are from anywhere on the Web that happens to have it. You can also buy 3D films online specially for them. They're currently only in VGA resolution but the quality is still good enough.
Communication might well be one of the best applications of 3D, especially when we're talking webcams. Minoru, which is the Japanese for "really" apparently, make a webcam with two lenses that shoots and beams out footage in red/cyan stereoscopic anaglyph. £50 buys you one of the cutsie looking devices, compatible with Windows Messenger and Skype, and five sets of 3D glasses, you then send out to the people you vid chat with the most.
Hard to tell whether it'll catch on - well, to be fair, it's clearly not going to catch on - but UK fashion designer Marios Schwab has produced a collection of 3D clothes for London Fashion Week 2009. The garments again use anaglyphs for the effect and, although you might not be able to afford one or, indeed, even want to wear one, you can see them for yourself in the window of Browns on South Molten Street in London where they've secured red/cyan glasses for passers by to look through. In theory, it would be possible to make patterned dresses out of Magic Eye-type autostereograms. In practice, no one would ever stand still or flat enough for it to work.
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