3D...Now? Part II

A few months ago I wrote an article on various technologies in development that promise to bring 3D into your home, sans funny glasses. They're all a ways off from home use, but that doesn't mean you can't get 3D into your home. Two recently released products allow you to enjoy 3D in your home, right now. Maybe.

Your brain needs stereoscopic vision to truly experience a sense of depth. This is easy in the real world where everything actually is a different distance from each eye. But in trying to re-create the world in 2-D, something needs to be done to fool our brains (which is so easy to do) into thinking each eye is looking at something different. The 3D movies of yore used red and blue lenses; modern techniques tend to use polarization. The result is more or less the same. The image projected or displayed is filtered so that a different image goes to each eye. Our silly brains create a false sense of depth. How it is filtered also differs.

One method is to filter the light at the display. IZ3Ds 22-inch LCD works on this principle. A second LCD screen is fitted on top of the main LCD panel. While the main panel creates the image, the second screen twists the light of that image many times per second so that each of your polarized, glasses-shod eyes receives different information. This makes the display more expensive, of course, but it also allows you to use simple and cheap glasses.

A different method relies on communication between the glasses and the display. Mitsubishi and Samsung (what I used) have both shown similar versions of this technique. The DLP light engine, running at 120 hertz, displays two different versions of the image. An IR blaster attached to the TV communicates with the glasses on your head. The glasses, slightly more complex than those with the first system, include active LCD shutters. The IR syncs the glasses to the correct frames being shown on the screen so that each lens goes opaque many times per second so each eye only sees the correct frame. The glasses aren't heavy or bulky, but they're a lot more expensive and not as comfortable as those with the other system. The DDD 3D starter pack is $150 (or $200 with two sets of goggles). The advantage here, however, is huge. You don't need a special display. In fact, you may already own a display that works with this add-on kit.

Two sets of polarized lenses come with the iZ3D monitor.

Does It Work?
The IZ3D monitor takes a lot longer to set up than a normal monitor, obviously. It took me a few hours to reach the point where I had convincing 3D with a minimum number of artifacts. Although the monitor I received for review was complete, the drivers still had a few bugs. For one, it doesn't work with DX10 games yet (which is forgivable, as there are so few). And while it will work with Vista, it won't work with Vista 64-bit. What genius builds a PC with Vista 64-bit? This one. Oh well, it ran fine on my old computer. The results were convincing, but hardly breathtaking. Seeing games in 3D is sure cool, but $1,000 cool? I'll reserve judgment when there are some updated drivers. If I'm more impressed, I'll do a post on my blog on the Website.

On the DLP side of things, I used a Samsung HL-T5689S and a kit from DDD that included the IR blaster, goggles, and software that allows the TV's built-in 3D aspect to function. Allegedly. After two days of trying—and talking with DDD—I never got it to work. I've seen this kit and TV look amazing at a Samsung event and a similar version at a Mitsubishi event. On paper, it's a fantastic system. There are a full 60 frames per second to each eye, so there should be less chance of fatigue. But if a fairly skilled (and remarkably modest) end user can't make it work on a completely normal computer, well, I'm not sure what to tell you. If you succeed, let me know how it is.

iZ3D 22-Inch 3D Monitor

The full color image (top) is what you see. The black and white image is what is being created specifically for the polarizing panel.

At this point, a thought is occurring to you that occurred to me: I believe the military calls it Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot. Here's an article where nothing is reviewed, nothing was discovered, essentially 900 words of filler. This thought occurred to me the day before we shipped this issue to you, as I was screaming at my computer and looking over the remains of a perfectly innocent mouse. (It was the only thing in the lab I could throw in my frustrated, stressed-out anger.) One product sort of works; the other may work, but I couldn't tell. Super. I'm a failure.

That thought led to a more calming one. This is exactly where 3D has always been—on that tantalizing outer edge of what is possible, that next logical evolution of entertainment. We want these technologies to work because their promise is so awesome. The select, and patient, few who buy these products could be the vanguard of the next revolution in home theater. But what do I know? Smell-O-Vision didn't catch on, either.