Stereoscopic Displays and Virtual Reality Systems X (2003)
Proceedings of the SPIE Volume 5006
"The Future of Stereoscopic Imaging"
Wednesday, 22nd January 2003
Lenny Lipton, Moderator, StereoGraphics Corporation
The panel discussion subjects went beyond its title and ventured into so many areas
that what was discussed is difficult to summarize succinctly. There was a great deal of
audience participation and the audience spoke nearly as much as the panel
members. A lot of passion was expressed, which is not always evident during the
presentation of the papers. I asked my fellow panel members to contribute their
thoughts on the discussion, and three of them, Jeff Ferguson, Dan Sandin, and Mark
Bolas set me their impressions. (Dave Cook was also a panel member.) In addition,
Neil Dodgson was kind enough to contribute. (I take responsibility for editing the
contributions.) As the reader will see, in some cases the panel participant went
beyond the purview of reportage and provided comments or conclusions. The reader
may get the impression that we held a number of different panel sessions. One thing
to keep in mind, which may be have been forgotten, is that the production and
projection of stereoscopic movies is ongoing and a commercial success, as every
major theme park in the world has, I have been lead to believe, at least one
Jeff Fergasen, Ilixco Inc.
The panel seemed to be a success; the large audience participated and was
genuinely interested in factors that will bring commercial acceptance and success to
the stereo 3D business. For many in the audience, success is defined as the theatrical
acceptance of stereoscopic 3D, that is to say, general availability of stereoscopic-
enabled movie theaters showing full-length features produced by the big name
studios. The current sales levels of stereoscopic products in the visualization, PC
gaming, Internet or home video entertainment markets are either too small or not
generally visible enough to be considered a success by many. A number of people
expressed the opinion that a key factor that is limiting success is the low and
inconsistent quality of 3D imagery. In particular, a need may exist for standards
related to convergence and image separation leading to productions that can be
comfortably viewed by audiences.
Daniel J. Sandin, University of Illinois/Chicago
Much of the content of the stereographics shown at the conference and much of the
content of the discussion by the audience during the panel focused on theatrically
released films in stereo, or more precisely, the lack of them. I suggest that computer-based
interactive desktop stereo might provide a more fertile environment.
Production in theatrically released films is a centralized hierarchical environment.
Distribution for use on personal computers is an area where an individual or small
group can make a difference. Computer games, for instance, represent an
economic phenomenon that is as large as theatrically released films but is far less
centralized. There are also a lot of application opportunities in the areas of scientific
and industrial visualization in addition to home entertainment. Instead of thinking of
Disney films, think small screen, think home computer, and think interactive.
Mark T. Bolas, Stanford University
It is instructive to go beyond the perceptual infatuation many have with stereoscopic
imaging (including myself), and concentrate on how it can improve human
interaction with computer-mediated environments. This requires the inclusion of our
bodies when thinking about systems that use stereoscopic displays. If the scene says I
am falling, but my body is staying still, it will be wrong. If I am focusing at 2 feet, but
the imagery was shot at 20 feet, it will be wrong. If I turn my head, but the HMD
imagery responds 120 milliseconds later, it will be wrong. The art is no longer about
simply producing and displaying stereo images - we have succeeded at that. The
art is now about how to use such images as part of a system perceptually rich in
dimensions beyond sight, and with content that is cognitively meaningful.
Neil A. Dodgson, University of Cambridge
Lenny opened the panel with some comments about his own experience as an
entrepreneur in the stereoscopic industry. He said that his customers often ask for
stereoscopic displays that do not require glasses; there appears to be demand for
autostereoscopic display systems that is not yet met by existing systems. There is also
increasing interest in single-user stereo and in desktop stereo. Users want larger angles
of view and interactive rather than passive content.
With regard to the conference itself, Lenny reminded us that he has been attending
the conference since 1981 and said that, when he started attending, one would have
thought that we would soon have a market for autostereoscopic displays based on
vibrating mirrors. Technology moves on and the fact that some piece of technology
works does not mean that it can be successfully exploited commercially. It remains to
be seen whether the displays demonstrated this year enjoy commercial success.
Lenny pointed out that color television took 20 years from its introduction to 50%
market penetration, so it may take a considerable period of time for stereoscopic
displays to be generally accepted in any given application area.
The panel session then moved on to comments from each panelist followed by a
general discussion. The principal thought coming out of the discussion was that stereo
is pointless if we have no content. Two companies represented at the session, nVidia
and DDD, have developed software tools to address the lack of content.
nVidia developed a driver-level stereo interface for their graphics chips for shutter
eyewear. All that it requires is a tiny bit of extra programming in the game software.
There are now about 500 games that work in stereo (a couple of these were shown at
the demonstration session). DDD has a system that can semi-automatically convert
existing monoscopic content to multiview (this was also shown at the demonstration
As a counterbalance to these efforts, a member of the audience pointed out that the
lack of compelling content is not the only problem: current autostereoscopic displays
also lack resolution and cost a lot of money. One specific example of this was given
by David Mark (of Mark Resources). He told us that he is inundated with requests to do
stereo visualizations of scientific data. He said the interest and content is there, but
they are waiting for the displays to become good enough for their visualization
As a third factor, we must consider potential market size, in addition to technology
and content. Visualization has a market of thousands of displays but entertainment
has a potential market of hundreds of thousands of displays. We have sales and
content for the former but not for the latter.
The bottom line seems to be that we can do stereo: now what can we do with it?