What is 3D anyways?

3D is all the rage today with more and more media going the way of 3D. Ironically what is currently being advertised as new cool technology has been around since the mid 19th century. While back then they may have not had high-performance computers to generate images for 3D consumption they both rely on the concept of stereoscopy. Click the jump to learn the more about the intricacies of how 3D works.
We perceive a 3D space (in a very simplified sense) because we have two eyes that delivery slightly different 2D images to the brain. The brain interprets the divergence between these two images as a 3D space. Current 3D display technologies work off of a concept known as stereoscopy, in which two 2D images are presented to each of the viewer's eyes independently creating an effect of depth. Traditionally, stereoscopic images are produced by using two cameras offset from each other. These two images are then delivered to each eye separately through some sort of filtering mechanism. This was accomplished long ago using a picture holder, then colored glasses (anaglyph), and more recently through polarized and shutter glasses. While you are seeing depth what you are seeing is still not a true three dimensional space but rather it's a two dimensional representation of what a 3D space looks like from one fixed perspective.

Perceiving a true 3D space is very much about moving about it in time. That is why pirates still have a sense of depth.  An interesting example of this can be seen in a comic by Doc Pop here:


By gaining multiple perspectives of a space our brains can fill in the details and flesh out a 3D space.  So maybe what everyone is calling 3D, stereoscopy, is not really creating a 3D space but rather tricking our brains into sensing depth.  Just remember if you really want to see some 3D stop looking at the monitor and look outside. If you really want to see some awesome stereoscopy make sure to check out Robots! in 3D.

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