Television In The Third Dimension

The human body is a marvellous thing. The very fact that we have two eyes means that we view everything in three dimensions, a talent that cannot be overstated. However, for years, television engineers have been trying to develop ways that we can trick our brains into thinking that we can see a three dimensional image from a two-dimensional screen. And now it's the Next Big Thing in TVs.

3D itself is nothing new. The first 3D movie was displayed all the way back in 1922, three years before John Logie Baird's breakthrough television set. But for as long as we've had TVs, there have been people hoping to produce a 3D image from a set.

There are four main different types of technology for viewing 3D in the home: anaglyph (which uses the red/cyan glasses you're no doubt familiar with); polarisation, which uses glasses with special polarised lenses (like what you where when you go to see a 3D film at the movies); alternate frame sequencing (which use special powered glasses that actively close shutters on each eyepiece to create the illusion of 3D); and finally autostereoscopic (which appears 3D without any glasses).

Even though developments are being made in all four technologies (except maybe anaglyph – because of the coloured glasses, everything you watch appears washed out in terms of colour) - but the most likely technologies to make it into the home are via polarisation or alternate frame sequencing.

Early last year, Samsung released the first plasma TV capable of displaying 3D images using the alternate frame sequencing glasses. The 450 Series plasma was hamstrung by the lack of 3D content available, but since its release last year, many major movie studios have put a concerted effort into creating 3D films (Dreamworks animation now only makes 3D films, while blockbusters like the upcoming Avatar will definitely put 3D at the front of consumers' minds), and the Blu-ray consortium has announced that they are working 3D into their specifications for both players and discs.

Samsung have also been followed by all the major TV manufacturers who have announced plans to release 3D TVs within the next few years. These TVs will be able to display not only three dimensional images, but Full HD 2D ones as well.

And while it will still be a while before everything we watch on TV is in 3D, Sky in the UK has announced that next year they're launching a dedicated 3D channel. You'll need a 3D-capable TV to watch it, and you'll still need to wear those glasses, but it looks like having 3D television in your lounge room will be inevitable.

History of TV is Giz AU’s month-long look back at the development of the world-changing medium and its influence on our daily lives.

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