Guest post by Paul Fraser.
The computer graphics gods (i.e., geeks) of the world have descended upon the Los Angeles Convention Center for the SIGGRAPH 2010 International Conference and Exhibition. Now in its 37th year, SIGGRAPH draws together tech-minded people interested in graphics research, art, animation, gaming, interactivity, science, education and the Internet for a week-long mashup.
Yesterday, we walked the aisles of the expo and found a number of products jumping on the 3D bandwagon. Whether you think 3D video / film / television is the future or that it's a passing fad, no one can argue that the amount of 3D eye candy presented this year is enough to make any 3D-hater drool. You can't walk 10 feet without finding an exhibit that uses the technology in new and fascinating ways.
When it comes to displaying 3D imagery, there are generally two types of technology: displays that must be viewed with 3D glasses (stereoscopic displays), and displays that do not require 3D glasses (autostereoscopic displays). Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages; however, it seems that autostereoscopic technology, though still in its infancy, is the future of 3D technology. If advertisers were to create a 3D video display for a store, for example, they would need the glasses-less technology for passersby to view it. Besides, having to wear glasses to view 3D imagery is becoming too cumbersome. Are you really going to carry around a pair of 3D specs in your pocket?
Sony is at the forefront of autostereoscopic 3D technology. During the Emerging Technologies portion of SIGGRAPH 2010, the company showcased the 360-degree autostereoscopic display prototype we've been anticipating trying out since we caught wind of it last week: the RayModeler. The device—which looks like it could have been taken from the set of a Star Wars film—is a compact version of a 3D display enclosed in a cylinder. At first glance, it looks like a high-tech coffee-bean grinder or a blender, but after taking another look, one can view the display from all directions and see a bright, color 3D image. According to Sony, the system is the first display of its kind, featuring special LED light sources that show 360 unique, 24-bit color images in all directions. The user can even control the orientation of the display's content by using hand motions in proximity to the display (see video above).
Though the prototype seems far from being integrated into our everyday lives, Sony says that future iterations of their RayModeler will have many potential applications such as video entertainment, digital signage, education, museum displays, video games, advertising, and 3D telecommunication.
Up top is a demonstration of a 3D pong displayed on the RayModeler at SIGGRAPH 2010 (presented here in 2D, of course). Below, Sony's original launch video: