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3D: It's No Slam Dunk...Yet

Amid the significant hype surrounding 3D technology, reasonable minds are pondering where it might even succeed--and why. PRO AV columnist Pete Putman has talked it over with industry luminaries. Here's his assessment.

And then there's 3D itself. Dr. Banks' presentation was compelling because it detailed what can go wrong with 3D when visual cues don't match up to how our brain handles vergence and focal distances, a process called accommodation. It doesn't take poor-quality 3D to give people headaches or eyestrain. In extreme cases, too much motion and image zooming/panning can result in nausea and vertigo-like symptoms. Not to mention viewing distances and angles are also critical in 3D. The wrong combination dampens the effect.

Still, in our market, we're likely to see 3D implemented in digital signage, for instance, using primarily autostereoscopic displays (i.e. no glasses). Companies including Sharp, LG, and Philips have shown autostereoscopic 3D in the past, inducing a depth effect when the viewer changes position slightly. A February blog post by DisplaySearch vice president Chris Connery described a campaign by 20th Century Fox and Clear Channel to promote the release of The Lightning Thief in Great Britain using several 42-inch autostereoscopic LCD displays supplied by Magnetic 3D. (Ironically, although the ad campaign was in 3D, the movie was not.) Magnetic 3D claims that "3D public displays have four times the stopping power of standard 2D advertisements, up to ten times the average dwell time [and an] increased brand recall rate."

3D will also show up in the rental and staging market. The concept of 3D meetings isn't new--I sat in more than a few 3D multi-image slide presentations over two decades ago--but as it comes out, the technology for playing back and projecting 3D will be more affordable. ViewSonic and Optoma introduced 3D DLP Link projectors at this year's Consumer Electronics Show that cost $1,495 and $899, respectively. Moreover, any high-brightness, large-venue projector worth its salt can refresh at 120Hz--the magic number needed for progressive-scan, active-shutter presentations. And the cost of glasses ($100-plus for active shutter glasses, for example) could quickly drop by half as market demand increases.

One place I believe 3D will find an ideal home is in the classroom. Imagine the ability to visualize any 3D object--an auto engine, the human body, a DNA molecule--by rotating it 360 degrees, zooming in and out, and even "exploding" the pieces to inspect them.

So start thinking about it. 3D will be the subject of considerable interest at InfoComm 2010 in June. Insight Media has partnered with InfoComm to put together a slate of presentations on 3D during the course of the show, and I suggest you try catching a few of them, even if 3D isn't yet part of your business plan.

Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

2008 InfoComm Educator of the Year Pete Putman is a PRO AV contributing editor and president of ROAM Consulting in Doylestown, Pa.

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