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3D without the headache

3D without the headache

Three-dimensional video is the perpetually emerging technology. And it deserves to be. With 3D imaging requiring awkward red/blue glasses, flickering polarizing goggles, or a screen that works only if you sit at a precise angle and distance from it, who would want it? Not consumers, and certainly not most TV broadcasters, who have an additional challenge: broadcasted 3D streams look like garbage to anyone without a 3D receiver.

The start-up TDVision has a software solution to both problems. It's one of the first companies to enable continuously updated different images to be sent to each eye. Users need to wear goggles, but there's none of the flickering associated with older 3D display technology. More importantly, TDVision has technology that enables a 3D video stream to show up as ordinary 2D video on standard monitors--just like a single-speaker radio can play stereo music without degrading the quality.

The capability to stream 3D data in a standard video signal is what sets this technology apart, because with it, there's no financial disincentive for broadcasters to layer in the additional data; sending a completely separate 3D signal, as has been required previously, is often a bad financial move since so few people have equipment that can view the signals correctly.

Will TDVision's technology help 3D video finally take off? It's one of the necessary things needed to move 3D forward, but it's not enough to get us all the way there. Users still need to wear bulky and expensive goggles (they'll be about $199 when they come out, probably in time for the 2006 holiday season), and there's not a lot of content encoded in 3D. Although, to be fair, there's probably more than you think; most new computer-generated animated movies and games are built using 3D models, and extracting that data for a 3D video experience is not all that difficult.

This technology has applicability in a lot of nonconsumer areas, such as military planning and medical imagery. It'll remain a tiny niche for consumer video for quite a while, but with this new technology, at least it won't give users and broadcasters as much of a headache.