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Special Report: 3D in the Real World

Equally hyped and scrutinized, the latest 3D technology shows off its potential best when used in non-entertainment situations. The second in a two-part series.


The school district in Boulder Valley, Colo., has carefully balanced its pursuit of cutting-edge classroom technology with prudent applications and careful cost management to ensure the longest possible life for its equipment and lowest total cost of ownership. Voters recently approved nearly $300 million in capital improvements that will reach each of the district's 55 schools over the next six years.

As a result, the district decided to make the move into 3D classroom projection, taking advantage of its 10-Gbps Ethernet backbone to stream content from a variety of sources. "We had recently upgraded our network and recognized the tremendous opportunity this represented in our ability to transform the classroom experience," says Len Scrogan, director of instructional technology for Boulder Valley.

"For example, science classes could enjoy live streaming from an ocean vessel to continuously followlivethe research being conducted. And there are many companies that are emerging to provide 3D curriculum content that could dramatically enhance classroom learning. We wanted to get ahead of that curve by making smart investments to capitalize on these opportunities."

The district eventually selected two standard projectors from Vivitek: the 2,600-lumen D825EX and, for larger classrooms, the 3,000-lumen D930TX. Both projectors are designed around DLP technology from Texas Instruments. "There were just so many advantages to adopting a DLP solution," Scrogan says, "that it became an easy decision. From an immediate, tactical perspective, it starts with picture quality. And the Vivitek/Texas Instruments projectors really deliver. The color reproduction is superb and the brightness is consistently excellent." According to Scrogan, the minimal maintenance requirements and lower total cost of ownership were also crucial metrics.


Education is a hot spot of 3D activity. Texas Instruments has spearheaded several pilot projects using its DLP Link projection technology to foster better comprehension in the classroom.

Education is a hot spot of 3D activity. Texas Instruments has spearheaded several pilot projects using its DLP Link projection technology to foster better comprehension in the classroom.

The Labatt Health Sciences Building is an 80,000-square-foot facility dedicated to UWO's faculty of Health Sciences. It contains a simulated hospital ward with eight beds and an ICU unit, a long-term healthcare unit, and a 3D virtual realty theater with Christie projectors.

Tim Wilson, professor of anatomy, describes the school's 3D theater as "the imagination tool of the millennium." UWO's new "anatorium," as it's called, is the first of its kind in North America. UWO had two Christie DS+5K three-chip DLP SXGA+ projectors installed to create a rear-projection, passive-stereo solution for the 3D teaching theater. Projecting onto a screen situated in a custom-designed lab, the projectors utilize Amira 3 visualization software to support Wilson's curriculum in a hands-on manner. At one time, there were no labs offered in anatomy. Now between 800 and 1,200 students participate in the classes.


Using 3D may not figure in your immediate plans, nor those of your clients. But the technology isn't going away this time, judging by the sizeable investments being made by manufacturers of TVs, projectors, monitors, eyewear, screens, optical media, cameras, editing systems, and servers. There are billions of dollars riding on its success.

Look for more 3D products to come to market at next year's CES and NAB shows, including Web delivery of content and low-cost 3D camcorders. Three new 3D front LCoS projectors were announced at CEDIA Expo and there are surely more to come. The development of 4K imaging technology will also drive the adoption of 3D imaging because the more pixels, the better the image.

There are even autostereoscopic (no glasses) 3D displays coming to market, including an innovative Toshiba design that uses nine views of the same frame and some clever barrier technology to render 3D as you change your viewing position. One thing we can all count on: Those classic red and cyan 3D paper glasses will finally be retired, hopefully along with all the references to schlocky 1950s 3D horror movies. It's been almost 60 years, after all.

Senior contributing editor Pete Putman was InfoComm's 2008 Educator of the Year. His 2010 InfoComm Academy sessions included "Digital Video 201" and "Practical RF for System Integrators."

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