Westlake Village (CA) - 3D monitors may be coming sooner than you think. At the recent Blizzcon convention, Neurok Optics showed off their prototype iz3D monitor can display simulated three-dimensional graphics from ordinary 2D games. With the use of polarized glasses, attendees gawked at World of Warcraft in 3D. We wanted to find out more after trying on the glasses and seeing the images ourselves.
Neurok's 3D idea consists of a combination out of the monitor's polarized glass and polarized glasses worn by the viewer. The prototype monitor shown off at Blizzcon was a cannibalized BenQ device. David Chechelashvili, vice president of marketing at Neurok, told us that engineers swapped out the glass panel with a polarized panel. He claims that the company can modify "almost any monitor" on the market. The heavy calculations necessary for converting the image from 2D to 3D is done by a "game adapter", which is a small box with two DVI inputs and two outputs, that sits between the video card and the monitor.
The system requires an Nvidia card with two DVI connectors. Chechelashvili explained that this wasn't because of any dislike for other video card makers but rather because "Nvidia had the stereo drivers necessary to make our product work." The included setup CD will automatically install those drivers.
The drivers allow the user to change the 3D depth and the distance the monitor has to be from the user. Chechelashvili explained that most people can see the 3D effect with the default setting, but others may have to increase or decrease the amount of depth or apparent "separation" between the foreground and background. "Everyone has a different vision and eye structure. We did have some people at the booth that couldn't see the 3D on the first try," says Chechelashvili.
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Our brain can easily recognize that a character should be in the foreground, while trees should be in the back, but how does the iz3D monitor turn a two-dimensional game into 3d? Inside the game adapter is a hardware neural network that processes depth queues such as differences in color, brightness, shadows and size of objects. Chechelashvili says, "It's more complicated than just saying what is in front and what is in back. The neural network performs many calculations and to make sure there is no delay, we had to build it into hardware."
As technology increases and video cards get faster, all the calculations will be moved from the game adapter to software. "In a couple of months we will not need a game adapter at all - our technology will be incorporated into Nvidia's driver. It's better for us because then we don't have to support an extra piece of hardware," says Chechelashvili.
The iz3D can be used with most games on the market, not just for World of Warcraft. In addition, Chechelashvili told us the company will offer a slightly modified unit, one that doesn't use a game adapter, to hospitals. He pointed out that many surgical procedures such as an endoscopy, where doctors look inside the body, could be better with 3D viewing. A 3D video conference package could also be released. Two webcams are synchronized to provide the left and right images and the game adapter will process them into 3D. "The tricky part is that the two cameras should be the same model and the need to be spaced an exact distance apart," says Chechelashvili
The company will debut their monitors this December. A 17" monitor, game adapter and a set of polarized glasses will be available for $1499. In the future, Chechelashvili says that a 19" and 23" version will be offered.