Yesterday I posted an article / product review combo that talked about what is coming down the pike with regard to 3D televisions that don’t require special glasses. Well take a look at this 3D digital camera, which - as we speak - the folks at Xilinx are currently demonstrating at their booth at the Consumer Electronics Show (www.cesweb.org)
Do you realize that the first public high-definition (HD) TV broadcast in the United States took place as long ago as 1996? At first there was so little HD content available that having an HD set really wasn’t worth it. Even when more and more channels started to provide HD content, I told myself that I was happy with my big old standard-resolution CRT TV. And then, only around a year ago as I pen these words, my wife wandered down to Best Buy and purchased a 46-inch HD TV, which meant that I had to upgrade our satellite TV service to HD (mutter mutter, grumble grumble).
Wow! What a difference! I love our new HD TV! Even when playing regular DVDs of old movies like “Meet Me in St. Louis” from 1944 featuring Judy Garland, my wife and I keep on spotting details we never saw before.
More recently, 3D television sets have started to appear. As far as I know, all of these also currently require you to wear special glasses – which is a pain – plus the amount of 3D content that is available is still extremely limited, but all of this is set to change. I’ve been told that it won’t be long before 3D HD TVs become available that don’t require the wearing of special glasses. Also, the Discovery Channel has committed to start recording everything in 3D in the very immediate future, and other channels are sure to follow.
In the meantime… I’ve just discovered that there are 3D cameras and display devices that are available today. In fact, I was recently introduced to the amazingly cool Aiptek 3D-HD High Definition 3D Camcorder, which is available from Amazon for $199.99. Check out This Video that I just posted on YouTube:
This little beauty (the camera, not my video) takes still images or videos. On the front are two cameras, each with a resolution of 640 x 720 pixels. Combined, this gives a resolution of 1280 x 720, which is why this camera is said to be high-definition (HD), although if the truth be told I think I would really class 1080 x 720 (or higher) for EACH camera as being HD … but maybe that’s really just quibbling on my part (what do you think?).
The Aiptek 3D-HD camcorder (front)
On the back there’s a 2.4-inch LCD preview screen that utilizes what the manufacturer refers to as “Parallax Barrier Technology” to provide a 3D display without the need for any special. You can watch footage in 3D live as you record it and also use the LCD for instant 3D playback.
The Aiptek 3D-HD camcorder (back)
A simple description of the way this works is that the “Parallax Barrier” – which looks like a transparent sheet located over the LCD screen – consists of a load of micro-optic lenses/prisms arranged in vertical columns. The first column of lenses/prisms – which is associated with the first column of pixels – slightly bends the light from those pixels and guides it to your left eye. The next column of lenses/prisms – which is associated with the second column of pixels – slightly bends the light from those pixels and guides it to your right eye. And so on and so forth.
The camera records in the MP4 format, which is compatible out-of-the-box with most new 3D HDTVs. Also, if you have NVIDIA 3D Vision technology on your PC or laptop, you can capture, edit, and play back all of your 3D recordings using the state-of-the-art Active Shutter 3D Technology.
Also, the included software lets you convert your videos to the 3D "Anaglyph" format, which is the classic 3D technology that requires red-and-blue glasses. Once you've converted your videos or photos to this format using the software, you can simply use red-and-blue polarized glasses (a pair comes with the camera) to view your 3D creations on a standard HDTV or computer monitor.
But wait, there’s more, because there’s also an associated digital picture frame with an 8-inch LCD screen that displays photos and videos in 3D. This is the Aiptek Portable 3D Photo and Video Display
, which is available from Amazon for $179.
The Aiptek portable 3D photo and video display
So why am I waffling on about all of this here? Well, one reason is that it’s amazingly cool… and what more reason would I need? But the other reason is that I just discovered that both the camera and the photo display use a Xilinx Spartan FPGA to perform a massive amount of high-speed image-processing.
How good is this 3D camera? Well, just before I made the video above (earlier today as I pen these words) I took a few seconds of 3D video and showed it to one of the guys in the office and his immediate reaction was to practically shout: “Wow – that is really amazing!”
The reviews on Amazon are a mixed-bag. Some are extremely positive while others are a bit “so-so soup” type thing. For myself I’m really impressed, not the least that I know this is only a taste of things to come. Now I’ve seen this I believe it will be only a matter of time before every smart phone and computer and so on is 3D-enabled. I think we are poised on the brink of great things 3D-technology-wise, and I for one cannot wait!