by Tom Zerega
Founder/CEO, Magnetic 3D
(This is part two of a four-part series looking at 3D in digital signage. Read part one here.)
Glasses-free 3D: Hardware is only part of the equation
Glasses-free 3D displays are a whole new animal when it comes to delivering a convincing solution. That's because the perception of quality with any display technology is often directly linked to the clarity and vibrancy of the content displayed on the device, combined with the ingenuity of the user experience to really appreciate what the new device has to offer. This is tough enough to achieve in 2D, but 3D adds a whole new set of considerations.
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Most consumers aren't typically concerned with the hardware specs of a display and don't particularly care to know how a device works, but rather appreciate or marvel that it simply does. Take Apple's iPad; this device is a prime example of engineering genius, but the quality of the content, availability of top notch apps and the exquisitely designed user interface are what truly make the device a game changer in the eyes of consumers. The device just does what you want it to do and features applications and content formatted perfectly for the device — that's the differentiator for Apple's iPad, and it provides clues as to what is needed for a successful glasses-free 3D experience.
Technology conversations traditionally shift quickly from the "how technology works" to the "experience" the technology provides, as opposed to, say, a dialogue centered around the physical attributes of the system.
Instead it's the "user experience" that is communicated by word of mouth to others, and this is likely to happen because discussing things you can see, such as content, are much easier to visualize, comprehend and communicate than the number of sub-pixels or the contrast ratio a given display device might boast. For glasses-free 3D display manufacturers, the pressure is even greater.
Autostereo display manufacturers cannot solely rely on their 3D display technology performance alone to garner success for their technology or for the medium. Great technology is only half the battle, and 3D is very much a battle fought on two fronts. The pure nature of 3D and dealing with sensitive optics creates a scenario whereby after one secures the right hardware, the success or failure of the end user experience rests intrinsically on the quality of the 3D content shown on the device.
And 3D is even more fragile than 2D, since content that fails in 3D is more disastrous than perhaps pixilated, choppy or improperly formatted 2D content. In fact, our tolerance for poor 2D content has grown with the abundant use of YouTube, streaming content and mobile video uploads.
But poor 3D content is another story altogether, because if the content is captured or created improperly and/or it doesn't jibe with the display device itself, it can physically hurt a viewer's eyes or even make them feel dizzy, maybe even ill for minutes or hours afterwards — and therein lies the stumbling block for glasses-free 3D. There is more to it than being creative: Developers also need to technically understand the system and learn its strengths and weaknesses to truly exploit its full capabilities.
This is a total 180 from the world of 2D where manufactures and content developers are at different ends of the spectrum. With glasses-free 3D, whether intended or not, success for both are completely intertwined.
In light of the foregoing, autostereoscopic 3D display companies have a vested interest to ensure that only quality content plays on their platform. Guidelines, or a set of "best practices" that clearly bring to light the best approach to develop content for glasses-free 3D displays and drive standardization are a must-have for any industry on the brink of explosive growth, to ensure its steadfast adoption.
(NEXT: Part III of the series will take a look at establishing best practices for 3D digital signage content.)
Zerega is the founder and CEO of Magnetic 3D, a glasses-free 3D display technology and media provider based in New York City. His roots are in broadcast, where he worked for nearly 20 years with major networks such as CBS, NBC and ABC/Disney prior to launching the Magnetic 3D brand and Enabl3D Technology in 2007.
Read more about 3D digital signage.