The Loh Down On Science

A new technique fools our eyes into seeing 2-D images as 3-D

What can the French impressionists teach us about . . . 3-D glasses?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet Harvard engineering professor Ken Crozier.  He LOVES 3-D movies!  They’re filmed with special dual-lens cameras.  The lenses, set slightly apart, film simultaneously.  It’s how our eyes are set.  That’s why we see three dimensionally.

But 3-D equipment is pricey!  Crozier wondered: Is there a cheaper way? 
He had an idea.  Create 3-D using one lens and a stationary camera.  How?  Math! 

Crozier’s team snapped two digital images.  Same spot, same camera.  But two different focal depths. 

Next they developed software that scrutinizes images, pixel by pixel.  It detects the angle that light entered the camera and like a Pointilist painter illuminates each single pixel.  That gives enough data for the software’s algorithms to calculate where pixels for another image would be:  Right next to where the camera really was.  Result?  A fake second image.

Flipping between the two images fast gives the impression of 3-D!  Without the horrible glasses! 

But we’ll keep the horrible popcorn.  It's delicious.

Watch a brief video of the effect.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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