ISee3D See a Single Lens 3D Future

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While in the design phase of developing a consumer single lens 3D camcorder with DXG, ISee3D showcased the world’s first single sensor 3D microscope adaptor at last week’s American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Annual Meeting in Orlando.

ISee3D Product Manager Shawn Veltman has put forward the case why single lens 3D technology can benefit medical, industrial and consumer entertainment 3D applications.

ISee3D have partnered with Hamilton Thorne Inc. – a provider of advanced laser systems for regenerative medicine, fertility and stem cell research markets, to showcase the world’s first single lens, single sensor 3D microscope adaptor.

By using a microscope equipped with the 3D adaptor, medical researchers were able to view cells as clear and accurate 360-degree images, allowing for greater precision in medical procedures and research. 

“In some applications, dual lens 3D just won’t be a useful solution especially when you’re looking at applications where size is critical, like in endoscopes for minimally invasive surgery” Veltman told 3D Focus. “By removing the requirement for a second lens, you can dramatically reduce the size of the endoscope and enable many additional types of minimally invasive surgeries to be performed that provide depth information to the surgeon.”

For the consumer entertainment side of things, ISee3D announced that they were developing a 3D consumer camcorder with camera specialists DXG. The commercial model is expected to launch in early 2012 and a prototype was shown at CES in January this year. The single lens 3D camcorder will join DXG's existing 3D camcorder and camera range.

Veltman claims that, in consumer electronics applications, the single lens 3D technology allows for cost effective and high quality zoom & autofocus functionality in consumer devices, something that’s generally very difficult to do when having to calibrate and match two lenses.

“Our technology is based on a lens modification that allows for 3D capture through one lens. You are getting a left and right image from the camera to the sensor and they can be utilised afterwards.” Veltman said. He continued… “Our single lens 3D technology was originally based on using a mechanical shutter or ‘leaf’. We actually put a piece of material in the lens system in order to oclude portions of the lens. We then moved to a number of different ways in order to achieve the same effect utilising either liquid crystal or other options that require much less space.”

ISee3D is a relatively small research and design company who license their patent portfolio, IP and know-how to other companies. ISee3D does not manufacture components itself but has a clear vision as to what markets can utilise single lens 3D technology including the automobile industry.

“Based on our technology, airbag detection systems could utilise a visual system that no only recognises where the bag should be deployed but also how far from the dashboard the passenger is and where their head is in order to deploy the airbag the most efficiently. This would require depth information.” said Veltman.

But it’s the medical industry where Shawn Veltman believes the technology will have the most positive impact…

“Our application in a microscope shown last week highlighted the benefits of ISee3D technology. Viewing a 3D structure of a cell makes it much easier to analyse. With dual lens technology, other than the size issue which can be a problem with invasive technology, you can get artefacts such as alignment issues and temporal delays."

Speaking at the OCE conference in Ontario earlier this year Veltman said “In the entertainment world these are well known problems and there are well known solutions to get around them, usually involving post production or software correction. That’s great as you can add some extra time and money and make it up in DVD sales later but with real time feedback, even with software correction, you might be adding in a temporal delay of a ¼ or ½ second and that’s really not good when you are talking about surgery… 3D is not about having two cameras or two lenses; it’s about having two images with disparity. So by being able to capture two images through a single lens we are able to cut out most of the problems. If you are shooting 3D with two cameras you really need to be hyper focussed on making sure they are aligned properly, that the lenses are matched properly so you’ve got the same focal length, and colour filtering in each lens matches that you don’t have any aberrations in each lens. You have to come up with perfectly matched image pairs. If you introduce a sub millimetre vertical misalignment into an image you are going to induce viewer discomfort. The single lens eliminates all of those problems. They are perfectly aligned because they are coming from the same lens and there’s no colour difference.”

The potential impact of this technology for consumer electronics is it can cost effectively introduce accurate zoom and autofocus into a consumer 3D camera without the need to calibrate two separate lenses which have the same focus length. Shawn Veltman admitted that their technology has an interaxial distance limit although he does not believe this will be a problem…

“In many cases you are going to have a fixed interaxial distance but we do have technology that allows for variable. There is an upper limit on the interaxial distance which is the diameter of the lens or more accurately the diameter of the aperture that we are working with. However, people think that interaxial distance is much more important than it really is. An endoscope is a wonderful example; you are using a 4 mm aperture but you are only taking shots that are very macro in nature. The shots you are going to take are maybe just a few centimetres away because you are using it as a tool for surgery inside the human body. There are a lot of factors that are more important to achieve a 3D effect than the interaxial distance.”

In October 2009, Sony announced the development of a single lens 3D camera capable of 3D images at 240 frames per second. In a prototype shown at CEATEC Japan, mirrors replaced shutters so incoming light was simultaneously separated into left and right images and recorded as it reached the parallel light area (the area where diverging light from the point of focus on the subject matter becomes parallel) of the relay lens. However, Sony’s single lens two sensor 3D camcorder did not achieve commercial status.  

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