Those red and blue glasses you once wore to watch campy 3D movies may have life in them yet, as new technologies transform the flat virtual world of the Web into a three-dimensional one.
Dynamic Digital Depth's new OpticBoom 3D browser plug-in uses 3D glasses to turn Web-based Quicktime movies into three-dimensional ones. The glasses were first used in such 1950s monster-chiller-horror classics as "House of Wax".
The company demonstrated the tool - and an upcoming display technology that offers 3D without the glasses - at Spring Internet World held in the US.
From flat to phat
DDD's OpticBoom 3D plug-in software is available for free download at the company's Web site. An "extreme" version costs about £20. In both cases, DDD sends you the 3D glasses when you register; however, the extreme version includes more-sophisticated shutter glasses.
"The shutter glasses opaque out each eye at a very high refresh rate so the two images appear as one in three dimensions," says Theresa Roth-Borunda, a spokesperson for DDD. "It offers better viewing than the red and blue glasses, which are dependent on colour to create 3D."
DDD's glasses-free display technology uses the same concept. A special optical wavelength filter applied to a traditional display controls the distribution of colour with each pixel, says Chris Yewdall, president and chief executive officer of DDD. "The display shows one image to the left eye and one to the right to create the 3D effect."
Although DDD doesn't expect consumer TVs using its 3D display technology to appear for about five years, the first commercial test display should debut in May.
The test displays will be about 50 inches and will be used for ads and music videos, she says. Unlike other 3D displays that force you to view from a certain spot to see the 3D image, this technology lets you view from multiple angles, so that more people can view it at once, she adds.
At the heart of DDD's OpticBoom software is its 2D to 3D conversion technology that creates a depth map to the image, Yewdall says. While previous technologies required conversion of each video frame from 2D to 3D, DDD's technology helps you to modify key frames, and then it calculates the 3D conversion for the rest, he says.
DDD is also planning to release a product called OpticBoom Photo sometime in the second quarter of this year, he adds.
This product converts still images to 3D using a simple light-to-dark gray scale that lets you select which objects appear in the foreground and background of the 3D image. As you select the objects, the software calculates a depth map of the image in real time, Yewdall says. DDD has not yet announced pricing on the software.
360 degrees made easy
If you'd rather be creating ultra-cool Web images rather than just viewing them, MGI and Internet Pictures (iPix) both offer £40 programs that let you take multiple pictures and stitch them together into a 360-degree image (no glasses required).
The new £40 iPix 360 Suite lets you create a 360-degree image easily, and it's the first software from the company that doesn't require you to use a special camera.
MGI's Photo Vista 2.0 and Photo Vista 3D Objects (for creating rotating 3D images) also let you use a regular film or digital camera. Be warned, however, you'll need to get plenty of shots to create a panoramic view.
Its best to make sure to include some overlap, says Cyril Baidak, MGI spokesperson. The company recommends a 20 per cent overlap. So, using a standard 50mm camera lens, you would need to take about 20 pictures for a 360-degree image, he says.
To use MGI's £129 Photo Vista 3D Objects you must first take multiple shots of the object as you walk around it or spin it, says Sam Beckman, a designer at MGI.
In both cases, the MGI software stitches the images together and lets you export them to the Web with a Java-based viewer. Because it's a Java viewer, site visitors don't need a plug-in to view the image, and it's easy to deploy, says Shelly Sofer, MGI spokesperson.
Today's 3D isn't just about images; it's also about interaction. 2ce this week launches CubicEye, a 3D navigational tool for working with multiple Web sites and applications.
Available as a free download from 2ce, the CubicEye resembles the inside walls of a cube. It presents six Web sites or desktop pages simultaneously, and you can expand each page into multiple cubes.