Summertime, and the Living Is … 3-D!


It's now the midpoint of the year and for most of us that means summer and some much needed break time. Display Week 2008 is a fresh memory, and the schools and universities are on break as well. We got our own break by skipping the month of June, as we do every year, so we could put our full efforts into covering Display Week for you, which we will re-cap next month with extensive coverage.

Meanwhile, we focus on 3-D display technology this month. There has been significant news – as well as significant hype – this year over the promised second (or third) coming of 3-D projection to theaters around the world. The reality is that this time around, the 3-D experience is really here to stay, and the major motion-picture artists, directors, and producers are embracing the medium with enthusiasm. If you were at the special session on 3-D projection in at Display Week in Los Angeles in May, or if you have been lucky enough to already see a 3-D film using the RealD or Dolby technologies, you know the experience feels very natural, looks real, and is immersive enough to satisfy you for long periods of viewing. Of course, the artists need to use the medium wisely, but I have no doubt this will lead to a whole new period of innovation. Maybe by the next generation our children will laugh when we tell them movies used to be 2-D, let alone black and white.

Meanwhile, in this issue we switch gears from the entertainment to the more serious scientific aspects of how human vision accommodates 3-D images (pardon the pun) and the challenges of producing intuitive artificial 3-D images with display technology. I'm very grateful for the efforts of our Guest Editor Brian Schowengerdt (who also, incidentally, co-organized the SID 3-D Projection special session this year along with Brian Berkeley) and the four articles on the physics and related aspects of 3-D display technology.

I have watched the efforts to develop various 3-D technologies for a long time and, like many, have maintained some skepticism of all of the early demonstrations. In fact, I frequently tell the story of meeting Greg Favalora (CTO and Founder of Actuality Systems) in the lobby of a dormitory building in Boston around 1997. Greg had built the first prototype of his volumetric 3-D display while still in graduate school and was very excited about showing it to me – in the basement of the building. That basement housed a room full of computers, power supplies, controllers, and countless other gears controlling a small spinning flat mirror and a single color modulated laser. The laser modulator was synchronized with the spinning mirror and projected a simple vector based image onto its surface, creating a true volumetric image that appeared to be floating in space. While I could not imagine the amount of work it would take to get all that hardware into a reasonably sized enclosure, I could tell right away this was true innovation in progress. Still, when I considered the amount of processing power involved, and the necessary frame rates (related to how fast the mirror spun) that would be needed to produce flicker-free full-color 3-D images, I honestly had my doubts it could ever come together. Of course, over the next few years, Greg successfully launched his company and with his team has developed a number of very compelling 3-D display products showing how much can be accomplished through hard work and clever technological innovation. His hard work culminated with Actuality Systems winning the SID/Information Display 2007 Display Application of the Year Gold Award. This and many other early innovations are leading now to some serious candidates for mainstream direct-view and head-mounted 3-D concepts that are not as far away from mass-market appeal as some might think.

I also want to tell you about another exciting mid-year development related to the website for Information Display magazine ( In May, we launched our Display Industry Forum, which I hope will grow into a valuable destination for our industry. The goal for this forum is to be the go-to space online for members of the display community to discuss the latest news, technology, and anything else affecting the industry – so bookmark the page, comment on existing posts, or start your own discussions! At the same time, we also launched our blog page, right before Display Week began. This became the destination for all our on-the-scene news from LA this year written by Michael Morgenthal and others. We hope to re-launch this feature in the next few months with several authors who will contribute regularly to the blog on important aspects of the industry. We welcome your feedback and suggestions for potential topics and authors.

There is no question today that many people get their news and contribute their views online, making major impacts on the industry at truly digital light speed. The display community is no different and we're working hard to fulfill that expectation at ID Online. At ID, we're committed to providing both the best in print information and the best in online content and features as well. Be sure to visit the site every day – after all, the site will only be as good as those who use it. And enjoy the rest of your summer. There's lots to do and it promises to be a busy second half of the year for the display world!

Stephen P. Atwood