Hi-Def Tri-Def: Is 3D All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

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Every holiday season, manufacturers try to reinvent themselves in order to entice more and new customers to buy their wares. CPUs might be a little quicker, hard drives a bit more spacious. This holiday, retailers are looking to add a whole new dimension to desktops – all thanks to new 3D technology. But, is 3D really all that it’s cracked up to be? 

How it works
Regardless of the actual method of transmitting the images – polarizing filters, active shutter glasses, red/blue films – they all work in a fundamentally similar manner. Obviously, none of these are what you might call “true” 3D; that is, none of the images are literally three dimensions.

Instead, they’re 2D like any other video, but displayed in such a manner as to trick your mind into believing that there’s a third layer. Each eye gets a slightly different image, with your left eye seeing something that’s just a few pixels over from what it is your right eye sees. This method is called stereoscopy, or stereoscopic 3D.

Your brain, trying to understand what’s going on, processes the two images and presents you with what it thinks is sort of a 3D image. This results in a number of problems for a not-insignificant portion of the population. 

Reports vary on the number of people who experience problems when trying to view stereoscopic content,though some suggest that it could be up to 12% of potential audiencegoers. Some of these are what’s known as “stereoblind”, which means they simply can’t see the 3D effect – some of those don’t see depth perception in real life, either.

If you lose an eye, or have serious eye problems in one of your eyes, you’ll be unable to check out movies like Avatar or TRON in all their 3D glory. Some people have all the right physiology for seeing the 3D effects, but still find it to be an unpleasant experience; for more than a few, faux 3D causes nausea and headaches.

Wear glasses? Good luck trying to fit the second pair over your head. A few models, like the glasses that HP includes with its new TouchSmart 620 3D, work fairly well with a second set of lenses – those with larger frames or extra thick lenses, however, will likely be out of luck. 

An example of a stereoscopic still 3D image.

Extra cost for extra tech
Assuming you’re gung-ho about the cool new 3D technology, you should know that it doesn’t come cheap.  This shopping season, there will really be two main ways to get 3D technology into your computer (barring the purchase of a new HDTV) – buying a new 3D monitor, like one from ASUS, or buying a 3D all-in-one, like HP’s recent addition.

If you buy a new display, make sure you have a recent NVIDIA or AMD/ATI graphics card – some older cards won’t generate the proper signals. 

Either way, there are still a couple of different choices to make. The more popular solutions use what are known as active shutter glasses. These glasses actually flash darkened LCDs over each eye to filter out what each eye gets to see. The result is a truer and stronger 3D effect, but the glasses will run between $50 and $100, and only one is generally included with any specific product. 



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