3-D videos, games on the Net

By CHARLES CHOI, UPI Science News  |  Jan. 3, 2002 at 11:00 PM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The Internet may soon transform into a 3-D experience where audiences can virtually walk on the moon, play online games, tour art galleries and watch lingerie shows -- all viewed on computer with the illusion of depth, space and volume.

During an invitation-only preview event Thursday in Times Square, spectators adorned with specially designed viewing glasses were treated to the unveiling of a new technology that converts any flat, two-dimensional computer image -- whether scanned-in photos or video streamed over the Internet -- into 3-D "stereoscopic" photos and videos.

"This is technology that promises to bring a complete 3-D experience to the Internet, whether it be the first Miss E-World Beauty Pageant or the first E-World Chess Championship," said Jonathan McCann, chief executive officer of TDV Technologies in New York, the company behind the 3-D viewing technology.

When people hear the word stereo, they often think of audio systems with two speakers that create a 3-D effect by playing different sounds to the left and right ears. The new computer viewer takes specially prepared, blurry images and makes them look stereoscopic, creating the illusion of volume.

"These liquid crystal 3-D viewing glasses are shuttering at a 150 times per second -- your left lens will be darkened when your right one is opened and vice versa," McCann explained. "Basically, the viewer is sending a left image of a picture and a right image of this picture."

The standard television set typically runs 60 images per second. At a rate any faster than roughly 50 frames per second, the mind fails to perceive flicker and fuses images together instead. The rate at which the electronic viewing glasses alternate between the left eye and the right eye is fast enough to bridge that threshold for perceived flicker.

"Your brain fuses the two sets of information and recreates a real-life 3-D image," McCann said in an interview with UPI.

The company's Web site at TDV3d.com plans to host a diverse range of online 3-D events, from computer dating and online shopping to sporting events. TDV plans to debut 3-D video streaming in February in time for an online lingerie show before Valentine's Day shopping.

TDV also plans to hold the first Miss E-World pageant in March -- where photos of contestants from around the world will be viewed to 3-D -- and the first E-World Chess Championship in June, featuring 15-time world champion Anatoly Karpov and legendary world champion Bobby Fischer.

TDV's Web site currently has 3-D renditions of pictures taken from the moon's surface, courtesy of NASA, as well as an online photo exhibit of Anasazi cliff dwellings and other sacred Native American sites. The company also sells 3-D full-motion videos taken with stereoscopic cameras possessing multiple lenses, such as the well-known IMAX movies and an online version of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

"We are presently working on a virtual tour of the Louvre in Paris," McCann said. "We are also in preliminary contact with MTV."

Stereo imaging has existed since the Civil War. In fact, there is a picture of Abraham Lincoln taken in 3-D, explained 3-D imaging expert Jeff Fergason, president of stereo imaging industry leader Ilixco in Menlo Park, Calif.

"The issue has not been the invention of stereo -- the issue is how do you deliver it to somebody's home," McCann told UPI. "And the computer's really the technology that makes that possible, combined with the Internet."

"Now you can take what was really just a theme park-level attraction, where it took theme park-level infrastructure, and tie it to a computer so now everyone can do it in the living room," he said.

The viewing technology TDV is marketing consists of the viewing glasses, as well as easily installed monitor attachments and image conversion software. A retail kit from TDV costs $99, and includes two glasses, one with a wire hookup, the other wireless that receives info via infrared transmitter. Individual glasses cost $29.

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