Stereoscopy is what scientists (and Wikipedia) call creating or enhancing the illusion of depth in an image. This is achieved by presenting two offset images separately to the left and right eye of the viewer.
Engineers have come up with three methodologies to create the illusion of depth. Two of them involve eyeglasses to either combine separate images from two sources or filter images from a single source to each eye separately. What is working best are liquid crystal shutter glasses. They alternately darken over one eye, and then the other synchronized with the refresh rate of the screen. And how well they work!!! If you have ever asked yourself why your eyes hurt after a 3D movie….It’s because you have a colibri in front of your eyes for two ours.
The real illusion is to believe however, that the third, glassless methodology is ever going to work for a broad audience. The basic idea behind it is to have the lightsource split the images directionally into the viewer’s eyes. But as the viewer moves his head from left to right, or up to down the image in his head changes. The first commercially available displays try to solve this issue by introducing an eye-tracking device. Recently LG presented the first commercially available screen for multiple users.* While LG is positioning itself as an innovator, they weren’t really the first one’s to come up with that technology. Plus it doesn’t seem to work too well. Imagine 9 people in the room all seeing a different image of the screen….
In their desperation to sell 3D home TV’s marketers have identified glasses as the scapegoat for lame global revenues. Some argue there wasn’t enough content to incentivize consumers to buy 3D TV’s. But what if the real differentiating element of cinema 3D was the screen size? In that case I see Sony on the right track, having started to experiment with virtual reality again. Watching a movie per se has never been a social experience anyway.
Guillaume manipulating a touchscreen to navigate through a 3D landscape
SquareClock crew watching stereoscopy enabled landscape prototype