At CE Week in New York, I finally got to meet Gene Dolgoff, one of the most popular guests on my podcast. He was there to demonstrate his company's latest project, a real-time 2D-to-3D converter called Instant 3D that works with any TV, not just those with 3D capabilities. That's right—it creates true stereoscopic 3D on any 2D display.
How can it do that? The converter accepts a 2D signal from any source, converts it to right- and left-eye images, and displays those images alternately on the screen. To see the 3D effect, you need a pair of special RF (radio-frequency) shutter glasses that synchronize using a signal from the converter, not the display, and because they are RF rather than IR, the box can be hidden away if desired.
The effect can also be seen using Dolgoff's FullColor 3D bi-color passive glasses, which use specialized green and magenta filters, similar in theory to the red and cyan filters used in anaglyph glasses. But Dolgoff claims that his choice of filters results in a full-color image. From what I've seen, it works fairly well with the onscreen image, but anything in my peripheral vision was whacked out and distracting.
The technology behind Instant 3D is actually pretty interesting. According to Dolgoff, "Today's 3D TVs and other portable converters create an illusion of 3D when playing 2D videos by randomly horizontally offsetting different areas of the screen differently for each eye. This provides some feeling of depth, but has no direct correlation to the actual depth information in a scene.
"Our patented Instant 3D converter, on the other hand, is the only system available that instantly provides true depth information from 2D video that was actually there when the videos were shot (or, for animations, when the animations were constructed within a computer).
"This is accomplished by comparing two frames at a time in a buffer. Actual differences in depth within a 2D scene can be detected because objects at different depths occlude each other differently when they move, have different vertical positions and sizes, and have different levels of brightness, contrast, color saturation, resolution, and sharpness, depending on where they are in depth. Using this information, coupled with the way our brains create the experience of 3D from two different images at a time, our converter produces stereo pairs in real time that provide real depth experiences."
The prototype being demonstrated at CE Week is big and bulky, but what do you expect of a prototype? The final design is much more streamlined, as seen in the rendering below.
This rendering is not entirely accurate—notice that the front-panel LCD display is joined by all the inputs and outputs. That's not how the final product will look; Dolgoff made the rendering this way to show the connections along with the LCD. On the actual box, the LCD will be on the front panel with some control buttons, and the I/O will be on the back panel. Along with four HDMI inputs and component and composite analog inputs, the converter will include a DVI and VGA input for computers, no matter how old they are. Outputs will include HDMI, component, and composite.
So how did it look? The 3D effect was very good, but it was fraught with lots of crosstalk/ghosting. Dolgoff explained that the duty cycle of the shutter glasses can be altered so that both lenses are briefly closed at the same time to eliminate ghosting, but that would also make the picture much dimmer, which he didn't want to do on a brightly lit show floor. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to see the system at work in a more normal environment with the adjustment to eliminate ghosting.
Now that the prototype is just about finished, Dolgoff is looking for capital to fund production. Like many entrepreneurs these days, he has started a Kickstarter campaign in the hopes that lots of people will contribute to the effort. The campaign's web page has more info; check it out!