The company's SD1710 consists of two monitors placed at a 110-degree angle separated by a piece of polarized glass. The glass lets the image from the bottom monitor pass through and it reflects the image from the top monitor. A person wearing special glasses gets an accurate, three-dimensional representation of digital photographs without the jagged edges, blurriness or other visual artifacts that can occur with competing technologies, according to the company.
By transforming flat photos into a 3D image, areas obscured by shadows can become easier to interpret, said Scott Robinson, a research scientist at Planar. With this, Robinson said, an intelligence operative could orchestrate a flight plan for a ground-hugging missile, or relief agencies could get more accurate visuals for levee breaches in New Orleans.
Technically, the images aren't 3D, but the brain thinks they are. A computer grabs one image, designated for the right eye, and pairs it with a similar image taken from a slightly different angle and sends it to the left eye. Because the perspective from each eye is slightly different, the brain thinks it is looking into three-dimensional space rather than at a flat image, and it processes accordingly.
Most cameras on satellites and planes aren't stereo cameras. Instead, they are simply ordinary cameras that take a succession of pictures. Still, even if the satellite has moved 20 miles or the airplane a few miles, successive images can be woven together through various software packages from companies such as DAT/EM Systems International to make a 3D image, said Robinson.
Unlike other recent 3D monitors, such as the ones from, the Planar system requires glasses. Systems that don't require glasses force a person to keep his or her head a specific distance away from the monitor. Glasses essentially give the person greater freedom of movement.
Planar's system also gets rid of the nauseating screen flicker common with CRT-based stereoscopic monitors, the company claims. In the CRT system, the monitor toggles rapidly between the images for the right eye and the left eye. The effect leads to a composite 3D image, but it can give people headaches.
"There are some people who get literally sick after 15 minutes," Robinson said. Customers have used Planar's monitor in all-day tests without problems, he added.
The monitor can also be used in two-dimensional mode.