At the moment, 3D Stereo causes fatigue after repeated use. There are a few reasons: your eyes are focusing on objects at depth as though they are emanating from the screen (a phenomena called parallax), yet at the same time you are focusing on the brightest – and, incidentally, only – light at the surface of the screen, causing eye strain.
Some viewers have strabismus, which is the inability to perceive the 3D effect from 3D Stereo technology. However, it's not all bad news: 3D Stereo is amazingly realistic, not as costly as other 3D monitor technologies and requires no software re-tooling. Samsung uses DDD technology for the software drivers that create a 3D Stereo effect.
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Nvidia is planning to release 3D Stereo technology. When testing it at CES in Las Vegas, it was clear that it has tweaked the polarisation and software drivers for more realistic 3D modelling. Real-time strategy games such as Age of Empires took on an ultra-realistic 3D perspective.
Another innovator is SeeReal (www.seereal.com), which is using holography for 3D display rendering. Instead of using two panes of glass, holography modulates the timing, intensity and brightness of the light emitting from a standard LCD for each RGB sub-pixel, and then re-constructs the 3D image in space. It's still an untested technology, but the advantage is that the re-created images don't cause eye strain.
Visual displays are only one aspect of immersion and innovation on a PC. What you hear must match the more realistic environment, or the experience will be lessened. Second Life is a good example of how the use of video and audio when creating a virtual environment are not always in sync.
Too often, the graphics look relatively realistic but the two-channel audio – not to mention the obnoxious chatter between pre-teens – almost ruins the experience. When a tank lumbering along in Crysis moves out of a distant ravine to surprise you from behind, it should fill the audio spectrum in those locations and make gradual auditory movements.
Surround sound headphone sets simulate these movements accurately for gaming: the Saitek Cyborg 5.1, the Sennheiser RS-130 and the Sony MDRDS8000. Experiencing high-quality 3D audio while gaming would create an other worldly auditory experience matching the action on screen.
So how can a two-headphone set mimic 3D surround sound audio? Once again, like 3D display technology, it's all about the physics. Surround sound headphones split two-channel audio and isolate frequencies for location mapping inside the audio spectrum. The source material does not have to be encoded for surround sound audio.
The Sennheiser 130 headphones use a complex algorithm to detect the timing differences in a two-channel audio source, adding depth to the audio so that certain sounds – explosions, distant music, lightning bolts in the horizon – appear to be coming from behind or to the side.
The Ultrasone HFI-780 headphones go a step further: they use an audio driver that sends audio around your ear instead of into the ear canal. This creates a more natural surround-sound experience that's immediately obvious compared to headphones that change the frequency of audio electronically to create the sensation of 3D sound.
Jump into the game
Video goggles attempt to do away with the separate entities of LCD screen and headphones when creating a virtual environment. It's an admirable goal, because it means more portability for computing and a lighter impact on the environment because less power is required.
Video goggles also have incredible benefits for gamers. The display can be massive and portable. You could watch 1080p HD video anywhere you go simply using goggles and a mobile phone. In gaming, the effect is highly engaging to the senses because you're transported by the personal nature of the display and aren't as easily distracted by your surroundings.