Hands on with StreamTV Network’s glasses free 3D tech
It’s always a bit of a hassle to demo a new product at a press junket. You have a group of people crammed into a small room – usually a conference room or a hotel room – which makes things abnormally hot, and there’s almost always someone there who forgot to put on deodorant that morning. Then you have to wait in line for your turn to actually get close to the product and try it out; no, press junkets are for the most part, not much fun. It is for that reason then, that when someone offers to come to my house to demo something that I jump at the opportunity. Sitting in nice air conditioned comfort, without a giant audience (at the most it’s me and my wife), it’s a much better experience to learn about something new – and thus begins my love affair with StreamTV Networks and what they can do.
To be honest, 3D of any kind has always been a novelty to me, and never something I –had- to have. I have 3D on my laptop, and while it was fun for the first two weeks or so, I haven’t used it in the last three months or so because my head would start hurting from the eye strain. I have a 3DS as well, and I almost always turn the 3D off on that because I can’t stand having to hold the thing in one place or the whole effect is lost. So when someone comes along promising glasses free 3D, well to say I was a bit skeptical was an understatement. After all, I had seen glasses free 3D in the 3DS and didn’t care for it there – with the limited viewing angle how could that work on a television?
When Leo (StreamTV’s VP of Sales) came and set everything up, we started talking before he showed me, and I brought up some of my concerns. “This isn’t going to be like a 3DS, is it?” I asked. I would wager a bet he could hear the exhaustion dripping from my words and knew what I was instantly – someone who had seen a version of glasses free 3D and was not impressed. He reassured me that their technology did not rely on a parallax barrier to achieve the effect, and referred to the magic happening as “occlusion tech”. Now I know a little bit about occlusion culling from gaming on the pc, but in case you’re not familiar with the term here’s a quick run down:
Occlusion culling is something that anyone who has played a FPS has experienced. It’s the process by which a computer algorithm determines when something is in front of something else. It makes sure that when someone is hiding behind cover, you can’t see their body – or when a character is walking you can’t see the wall that’s behind them. Knowing all this, I thought that I had figured things out – that I knew what was going to be coming when he started the presentation to show the tech off. Boy was I wrong.
With traditional 3D effects are used to make things “pop” out of the screen at you. It’s a cute effect, but it hasn’t really changed since I first experienced 3D in Disneyland watching Michael Jackson’s “Captain EO” in 1986. Yes the glasses got more advanced, and the effects are better, but it’s still just an effect that works great in theaters (because the screen is so big it immerses you), and not so great in the home (unless your entire viewing wall is a television). The way Leo explained what StreamTV does is that is turns the television into a window, where instead of things popping out, they fall in. Eager to show me what he was talking about, he hit the play button.
The first thing that was showed off was a starship flying through space, blasting away at enemies. At one point in time there was a blown up engine flying towards the screen, and Leo paused everything. At his request, I moved from one spot on my couch to another, and was pretty amazed by what I saw. You see dear reader; I could see things behind the engine as I changed my seating position. It was subtle – a star that the engine blocked when looked at head on could be seen fully from the left or right. Rather than normal occlusion culling which replaces things you can’t see with hidden lines, somehow their magical tech works to hide things from certain viewing angles only. After seeing this, I was extremely
As the presentation continued, there were plenty of times when the 3D effect was gorgeous and extremely evident – one scene was a pre-recorded BBC documentary that they took from 2D to 3D of a man walking on a tightrope across a muddy river. Now neither I nor my wife does great with heights, and this was the first time either of us had ever experienced that sense of vertigo just from watching a television. It was that realistic. Other times in the presentation the 3D effect was less pronounced and more subtle, but still beautiful to behold – like another documentary on Yellowstone park. In that one, the trees really stood out as being in front of everything while geysers went off behind them – not as
much of a “wow” factor as the first documentary, but still pretty cool.
When all was said and done, my wife and I were simply amazed at how well everything worked. From any viewing angle in my living room I got the same effect. Not once did I lose the 3D. Another big thing is that at no time during or after did I get a headache – there was no eye strain at all from this tech. While 3D is a novelty to me, my wife has been adamantly against it from the start (which is one of the reasons why I don’t own a 3D television right now). So imagine my surprise when she said she wants one of these televisions when they go on the market for consumers.
I for one want to meet the minds behind the tech here – it blows my mind how well it actually worked. I just don’t believe a human came up with it – maybe a genie, maybe an alien super intelligence, but definitely not an average human. Why are people still futzing about with “standard” 3D when an option that works so much better is here? All I know is that I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these guys – I’ve drank the Kool Aid, and I’m hooked.