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Kodak triumphs with 3D screen – possibly

And exactly how it works is a mystery

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Eastman Kodak claims to have a working 3D screen that requires no special glasses or headgear or covering on a screen. Just exactly what that actually means in practice is hard to fathom.

What Kodak says it has done is all over the news this week. It's hailed as a revolution, but unfortunately all the words are taken straight from the press release.

Kodak calls it the Stereoscopic Imaging Display and says it will target intensive visualisation tasks, such as oil and gas exploration, molecular and chemical modelling, computer-aided design, entertainment and gaming.

The overall principle is that there are separate images created on the screen for each eye. According to Kodak: "The user sits in front of a system that creates a virtual image of two high-resolution LCD displays, one for each eye. The user looks into two 'floating balls of light' that provide each eye a view of a magnified image of a display."

We're not sure from this if the floating balls of light are two distinct areas of one screen or two screens, we're not sure if the depth is created by layers of LCDs, as it is in some very expensive systems.

Apparently, the system uses what Kodak calls "Ball Lens Technology" behind the display and this was described in a paper presented at the 2003 Stereoscopic Displays and Applications conference. The website for the conference only shows an abstract which is headed "High-resolution autostereoscopic immersive imaging display using a monocentric optical system"

The fact that it claims to be immersive implies that you have to place your eyes close to the system and it develops the depth vision for you. So it will probably appear like a pair of binoculars, each with separate views.

In other words, we've returned to the VR-style liquid crystal, head-mounted display - only this time it allegedly works.

Suffice it to say Kodak thinks that it has a revolutionary 3D technology which treats each eye separately without inducing eyestrain. When stereoscopic virtual reality headsets claimed the same in the early 90s, users found they threw up and had nauseous headaches after more than 15 minutes of use. The only other promising entrant, a laser that writes directly onto the retina of the eye, found funding hard to attract given the fears associated with retinal burn-out, real or imaginary.

We're inclined to doubt the practical uses of the system, given that we've seen all the current 3D architectures out there, including those shown last year at the formation of the 3D consortium. None work as well as Imax theatres - an organisation that is going quietly bust despite recently securing new funds.

But if Kodak has found a trouble-free 3D system it will make it an awful lot of money. Not convinced, but it would be cool if Kodak is right.

Kodak is now currently seeking partners and early-stage customers for the system, and will provide licenses to the technology for integration into third-party products and systems.

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