I was having the “What do you do for a living?” conversation last week, when I mentioned 3D imaging. The gentleman responded, “So, do you have to have a 3D TV in order to view the results?” My initial amusement turned to astonishment that no one had asked that before. It makes sense though. How are you supposed to view 3D data on a 2D monitor?
This, of course, made me wonder what I should call the deliverables, if they are not 3D in the stereoscopic sense. At this point, I decided another complication was the last thing I needed to introduce to my clients. However, the question of whether the lack of a true 3D deliverable format is stifling the growth of 3D imaging remains.
Sure, 3D HDTVs abound, but the thought of having to wear glasses all the time is impediment enough to deter any thoughts of purchasing one. I continually hear stories of permanent installations using multiple projectors, but the cost is astronomical. I don’t think we will see anything cost effective anytime soon. Besides, I’m not sure how it would improve on or increase the efficiency of how we use our data.
In reality, the 3D aspect is great for accuracy and continuity, but we still see a lot of 2D deliverables. Until we have a way to truly simulate reality, we may not find ourselves viewing the 3D data that we strive to capture in all its glory.
The real question may be what form will this 3D data be in? Will it be the models that we all know or the photorealistic point clouds that Autodesk seems to be promoting? The most realistic looking of them all at the moment are the mesh and NURBS models that are texture mapped for use in Video FX production. You would be surprised at how many movies you have seen in the past couple of years that were in virtual environments. When you consider the speed of a camera versus a 3D scanner and the photorealistic presentation it certainly makes sense when the look is the thing that matters most.
Fortunately, all of these deliverables are obtainable with multiple hardware and software systems, so it may very well be up to the marketplace to determine the direction we take. The trick may be maintaining the flexibility to go either way when the time comes.