Recently, during a trip to Disney World, my four-year-old experienced the thrill of 3-D technology - glasses and all - for the first time during a showing of Mickey's Philharmonic. Let me tell you - she was impressed, and not just because Donald Duck's hind quarters were flailing about in the wall behind us at the end of the movie.
Donald and my daughter aren't the only ones infatuated with 3-D tech. These days, you can't swing an RSS feed without coming up with something related to new uses of 3-D technology.
Here's a roundup of some of the more interesting applications in the news recently:
Amateur photos and 3-D Mapping: Michael Goesele of TU Darmstadt in Germany and colleagues at the University of Washington and Microsoft Research are working on software that analyzes hundreds of online photos to build a 3-D model of a real-world structure, according to New Scientist Tech. This is a lot harder than it sounds, since the photos vary wildly in lighting, scale and angle, plus they often have somebody smiling boldly at the camera right smack in the middle of the object. To test the software, the team used Flickr photos of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
3-D Commerce: eWEEK shares how one retail chain, Tweeter, is envisioning the future of 3-D online retail, where you can not only visualize how, say, surround sound would look in your room, you can also see how its placement would affect sound or whether you'd need more cords or cables to hook the system up in your room.
3-D Data: Industry Week takes note of a recent Aberdeen Research report on how using 3-D data in departments other than engineering can be a competitive advantage. The brief article outlines three action steps for getting the most mileage out of 3-D data.
Ancient Spider in 3-D: This may be the strangest application of 3-D technology I've read about recently. Scientists used High Resolution X-Ray Computed Tomography (VHR-CT) to "digitally dissect" ancient spiders - preserved in amber. This gave them a 3-D image of the spider's internal organs. Apparently, it could revolutionize amber fossil study. Yippee?
Skiing in 3-D: Webware reports a company called EveryScape launched a 3-D search site that takes Google's Street View to the next level - allowing you to take a tourist bus tour, walk into buildings and even virtually ski the slopes of Aspen. So far, you can only "visit" Aspen, Miami, New York, and Boston.
3-D Angelina Jolie: Why limit yourself to visiting places when you can meet the stars up close and personal in 3-D? Digital hi-definition technology is reinvigorating 3-D films, starting with the release this fall of Beowulf, which features a 3-D Angelina Jolie. According to Wired, nearly every major studio is planning a 3-D release in the next few years. DreamWorks Animation's CEO even went so far as to say every release from DreamWorks will be in 3-D starting in 2009. Although it's possible 3-D has been given the kiss of death by Fox co-chair Jim Gianopulos, who is quoted as saying that 3-D is "a bigger quantum leap than talkies." We'll see about that. The article explains the evolution of 3-D film technology. Oddly, no one's found a way to shed the bi-colored sunglasses yet - bad news for those of us who already wear glasses.