Ready for prime time

July 1, 2009
While 3-D cinema and 3-D vision-guided robotics are taking different routes to customer satisfaction, 2-D videos can still deliver the latest technology news
While 3-D cinema and 3-D vision-guided robotics are taking different routes to customer satisfaction, 2-D videos can still deliver the latest technology news
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by Andy Wilson, editor
[email protected]

It has been 36 years since I last watched a motion picture in three dimensions. That particular motion picture, Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, as most critics would agree, featured the highest camp this side of the Appalachian Trail. Although the movie itself was awful, the 3-D effects that were produced were as I recall rather impressive.

So, when the prospect of watching another motion picture in 3-D arose last month, I was eager to see the progress that had been made in 3-D cinema over the last three decades. Early one Saturday morning my son and I drove to the nearest 3-D cinema to view Pixar Animation Studio’s latest masterwork Up. Duly equipped with digital cinema servers from Doremi Cinema, the state-of-the-art cinema we attended featured more comfortable seats than can be found in the first-class cabin of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Upon entering, every audience member was handed the latest X101 Series 3D active glasses from Pasadena, CA-based XpanD. Unlike the polarized 3-D glasses of the past, these digital glasses use the company’s patented “pi-cell” liquid-crystal cell to deliver alternate right- and left-eye images and thus the perception of depth.

This, the company claims, produces the brightest, flicker-free stereoscopic image possible. Unfortunately, as the company should have mentioned, only the brightest image possible with this particular technology. Because despite the all-digital cinema, the loss of luminance caused by donning the all-digital glasses rendered the image somewhat dark.

Sadly, I must report that, despite the advent of all-digital cinemas, the progress made in 3-D projection technology in the past 30 years has been minimal. However, the advances in computer animation techniques have proved just the opposite, making Up the best motion picture Pixar has ever produced.

Up, up, and away

For those involved in machine vision, the advent of 3-D systems has resulted in a number of different technologies being deployed in an increasingly larger variety of applications. However, rather than advancing the way images are displayed, these technologies use a variety of methods to capture and process 3-D image data.

Using single and multiple camera-based systems, time-of-flight measurement sensors, and structured light-based cameras, system integrators are now deploying these technologies in applications for bin picking, robotic-guidance systems, and depth perception. Last month, many of these different technologies and applications were on show at the International Robots, Vision & Motion Control Show held near Chicago, IL. As well as highlighting these technologies, a system integrator pavilion allowed attendees to interact with system developers who proudly showed what they had accomplished.

Just as the machine-vision industry has evolved to embrace these new technologies, so too has the business of trade publishing. For those of you who could not attend the show, Vision Systems Design magazine decided to enter the motion picture business, producing a number of “shorts” that allowed vendors, system integrators, and manufacturers to broadcast their messages.

Although not quite as well produced, directed, or written as Pixar’s Up, these videos do reflect the progress made by automation companies using 3-D technologies. And, rather than pay a $12 fee to view these videos, we have made them freely available on our web site at

In the coming months we will be adding more of these videos. Then, later this year, our trusty film crew will also be in Stuttgart, Germany, to bring you the latest news from VISION—the world’s largest machine vision and image processing show. We are sure you will find these videos informative and hopefully entertaining.

Although embracing new technology may not be a wise choice in certain consumer industries, it is certainly applicable to both the machine-vision and publishing fields. And, for those of our readers who might be wondering, our videos can be viewed without the use of 3-D glasses.

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