The history of 3D technology

New dimension has been around for a long time.

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Watching movies and television in the third dimension might seem like space-age entertainment, but the technology is older than your great grandfather. According to Sensio, a Canada-based manufacturer of 3D home technology, stereoscopic photography, or the technique of creating a "third dimension", was first invented in 1838. Stereoscopic photography is a special motion picture camera system that records images from two different perspectives. Eyewear is then used to combine these perspectives and create the illusion of depth.

When early filmmakers Auguste and Louis Lumiere presented the first 3D film called L'Arrivee du train in 1903, Parisian audiences were thrilled and panicked as a locomotive appeared to crash into their seats. Sensio adds that the so-called "first golden age" of 3D, from 1950 to 1960, saw its first mainstream explosion when dozens of these films hit the screens. But the "revolution" in the technology occurred with the invention of the IMAX 3D format, first seen at the 1986 World's Fair in Vancouver, Canada.

In 2001, the advent of animation technology and digital cameras helped to contribute to the "democratisation of stereoscopic production and screening", according to Sensio. Will this second 3D golden age also fade into the history books? Electronic giants certainly hope not. Gartner, the world's leading information technology research and adviser company, reports that the production of 3D TVs will rise from 1.6 million units this year to 5.2 million in 2011.

* Jeffrey Todd