Monday, October 29, 2007

More Stereoscopy

Well Sunny ordered me a pair of Edimensional 3D glasses, so when they arrive, I’ll post a full review (maybe even a video review, I haven’t decided yet).

Today’s post is pretty much a reply to Kato’s comment (as he’s the only other blogger I know who’s actually interested in this stuff).

Kato said :

I think it would probably become standard if the game companies decided it was a "must-have" for gaming. The R&D guys over at nvidia and ATI could probably get good 3D stereo to be a reality in games in a few short years if there was a push to develop it.

Well, I did some fairly extensive research and it turns out Nvidia has been fairly serious about stereoscopic 3D since 2001.

Download the right driver (freely available on the internet) and Nvidia cards natively support cross-eyed, red/cyan, shutter glasses and purpose made 3D monitors. (those are the ones that have the screen covered in teeny-weeny lenses that project the different angles to each eye).

Plus, shutter-glasses technology has come a long way. 99.9% of the reviews I read have said that new shutter glasses can produce a flicker-free image at 75hz. While results are obviously better the higher the refresh rates, response times and synchronization have improved to where really high refresh rates aren’t necessary.

The reasons I think 3D stereoscopy hasn’t become standard are threefold:

1) The first generation of shutter-glasses simply weren’t that good. Many used mechanical shutters, and while you got a 3D effect, they resulted in headaches, a flickery picture and looked plain goofy.

Of course, no one ever releases new technology and says “Ok, this is pretty crappy, but we’ll be able to do better soon”. People who bought them decided that they either didn’t work, or were just a novelty. It’s the equivalent of playing a home-brew Commodore 64 game in the 80’s, and then refusing to play ‘Dead Rising’ because you ‘tried video games and didn’t like them’.

Like I said in my original post, Virtual Reality would be amazing today, but when it first came out to play a VR game you needed to wear a 50lb headset, the controls were incredibly sluggish and the games just weren’t that much fun. Had it come out a little later, chances are we’d be wearing trackable VR head-mounted displays instead of monitors for gaming.

2) People aren’t aware of the technology, it’s capabilities or they believe it’s prohibitively expensive.

Say ‘Shutter glasses’ to most people and they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. Plus, when I wrote my original post, I assumed that Shutter Glasses were a lot less sophisticated than they are, and would cost a couple hundred bucks. Add to that the fact that most gamers believe you can only play certain games with them, and it’s no wonder they’re considered a novelty item.

In reality, you can get a pair for about $70 (or as low as $50 if you have a CRT monitor), and they work with the vast majority of games.

Long story short, people think they’ll be paying $250 bucks to play a handful of 3D games that just won’t be that good. What’s the motivation there?

3) Video card company’s business model doesn’t really allow for ‘new’ things.

Today, only Nvidia cards natively support Stereoscopy. Most others don’t, and are unlikely to do so in the near future.

As I’ve said, right now very few people use shutter glasses or are even aware of them. Because of that, there’s no real demand for support, which starts a vicious circle. People won’t buy them because of the lack of support, and card manufacturers won’t support them because of the lack of demand.

Even though they’ve been around for over a decade, PC shutter-based stereoscopy is still in its infancy, despite the fact that I don’t know of a single gamer who wouldn’t want to play their games in true 3D. In my opinion, it’s just a matter of ‘spreading the word’ and creating a demand for this technology.


amanda said...

totally not about your post... but.. if you still have SL, you should get on, so we can go to Octoberville, bc they have it up and it's different from last year, and it looks fuN!

MC Etcher said...

I remember Tycho and Gabe reviewed a set of videogoggles from Sony I think, and they said it was a great experience, likely to destroy your eyesight and melt your brain.

That pretty much disuaded me.

Looking forward to your review!

Kato said...

If they have indeed improved the home stereo glasses then that's a good sign. Good stereo shutter-glasses have existed for quite some time, but the problem has always been that they cost a couple hundred bucks and required displays that were expensive as well (projectors in the thousands or tens of thousands, or CRTs).

And yes, nvidia has been doing 3D for some time (and both nvidia and ATI have had 3D capabilities on their workstation cards for years). But, neither of them push it as a must-have technology. Just the fact that you have to download a different driver to unlock the capability says to me that it's not a priority, just a pet project that some of the engineers are keeping alive for enthusiasts.

Let us know how the glasses you get turn out. As I've said, I tried out the consumer stereo ones several years ago so my opinion is outdated.