Aug 31, 2008

Tech - Third dimension set to enter our lives

San Jose (California): Seeing is believing, the old adage goes. The truth is more convincing if we can actually look at it. Which is why, the information industry is so excited about the rich promise of a new way of using personal computers called visual computing.
For three days last week, in San Jose, California, capital of the ‘original’ Silicon Valley, over 9,000 delegates joined what was touted as the first-ever summit of the visual computing industry.
It was hosted by NVIDIA, a household name among gaming fans for its range of rich graphic tools — and by a dozen companies which are turning out some exciting products for lay users in this new arena.
The message they delivered was simple: NVIDIA Chief Jen-Hsun Huang put it in words: “We are on the dawn of a display technology revolution. 3D is here.”Right sequence
The event provided a ‘peep’ into the future by players like Microsoft who unveiled a cool tool called PhotoSynth. Imagine, you have just come back from a family holiday and your digital camera is full with dozens of photos you have taken, many in a single site — may be the Taj Mahal or the Charminar or Sentosa in Singapore. PhotoSynth allows you to stitch these ‘flat’ photos together to create a 360-degree, 3-D panorama of the spot.
The software is clever enough to guess the vantage point from where each photo was taken, then it places them in the right sequence. Microsoft Live Labs has placed the software for free download at and as long as your PC runs Windows XP or Vista and has at least 32 GB of graphics memory, you can experience this 3-D experience for free.
Even high-end professional 3-D design tools which are used by car makers and aircraft designers have ‘trickled’ down to lay users: Dassault Systems from France, unveiled a tool called 3DVia, which it offers to its customers so that they can create 3-D objects on the computer for use in their product design or marketing.
To allow lay users to share this experience, the company has thrown the tool open at and anyone can register free to download the tool, create one’s own 3-D pictures and share them with the 3dVia community on the web.
It can also be accessed at the Microsoft map service, Virtual Earth, to create and add 3-D objects — perhaps of your own house — on personalised satellite maps of your neighbourhood.New class of displays
Remember, all these are what are known as ‘flat’ 3-D — the picture has depth but you are seeing them without special glasses.
This is not good enough, for hard core games freaks, monitor makers like Viewsonic and iZ3D are pioneering a new class of displays which can be used in conjunction with special glasses to view stunning stereoscopic 3-D. They are still pricey — $600 to $1,000 (Rs. 25,000 – Rs. 42,000) — for most of us; but some surgeons are using such games machines to get a better view during ‘keyhole surgery’ so that they can boldly go close to vital organs.
Surgery is no game — unless it seems, you want to do it in 3-D!

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