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Interactive in three dimensions

To experience the command bridge of a space ship in three dimensions, or be on stage at a concert – this futuristic vision has come a little closer to reality. Researchers have developed a media player that permits interactive use of 3-D monitors.

A musical experience that beats any concert hall: With just one click of the mouse, music-lovers can look over the guitarist’s shoulder in a three-dimensional scenario. The joystick enables viewers at home to “walk” right across the stage and experience the recorded concert from all sides. The surround sound moves with the spectator – if you turn your back to the stage, then the sound seems to be coming from behind. Scenarios such as this are not yet a real option for concert DVDs or live broadcasting via Internet and radio. But the first steps have been taken: Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT in Ilmenau have devised a novel type of player that for the first time ever permits this type of interactive use on displays that create the impression of a three-dimensional image. “Our system allows us to actively involve the viewers – they can walk through rooms and select objects, for instance,” says Uwe Kühhirt, who heads the development at the IDMT. “Camera perspectives can also be interactively selected. Ambient sensors that determine factors such as the brightness, the temperature or the number of spectators, enable the scene to be dynamically controlled – for example, the viewer can be integrated into the three-dimensional scene with the aid of a video camera.” Two- and three-dimensional elements can be combined on the 3-D monitor in almost any way desired. This is possible because each object – a person or a sound, for instance – can be separately encoded and integrated in the scene. “That means, for example, that we can put a person whom we have recorded in the studio into a room that has been generated on the computer,” says Kühhirt. From a three-dimensional scene, the player generates separate views for the left and the right eye, enabling the overall image to be perceived in three dimensions. Users who do not have a 3-D display can benefit from this technology too: The three-dimensional scenes can basically be displayed on any type of monitor – be it a cell phone or a television. “The player receives the data, such as a scene from a concert, and calculates the optimum image and sound reproduction for the respective playback system,” says Kühhirt. At IFA, the consumer electronics trade show to be held in Berlin from August 31 to September 5, 2007, interested parties can try out several interactive applications on a three-dimensional display (Hall 5.3 Technisch-Wissenschaftliches Forum).

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