One major part of my university course was studying the concepts behind 3D graphics in video games. (mostly painful mathematics.) One thing I remember thinking was that for as impressive as 3D games were, they were still only ever actually in 2D as they were displayed by raster on CRT screens. If the purpose of ever increasing graphics technology in games was to enable immersion into the game, then surely the fact that the final image was projected onto a 2D plane would be a serious limit on that goal.

Then I saw Wipeout being played on a PSP. It was the first time I ever saw a convincing interactive 3D landscape on a hand-held. Even though the projection was just regular 2D (LCD Widescreen) I remember being amazed that a world like that could be shown on a screen that I could lift up, and look behind, and there was just the back of the device. Somehow the winding race track that went on for miles lived inside this tiny hand-held device!

My next memory was watching Avatar in 3D in the cinema for the first time. I think it was the first 3D movie I’d seen, stereoscopic 3D using the polarising glasses, The themes and CG in the movie leant itself well to the presentation of 3D scenes and I remember watching that movie in the cinema 3 or 4 times! I was so sure that this was the future of movies.

The next moment was playing 3DS for the first time, Mario 3D Land. This time it was a non-glasses experience looking at a stereoscopic screen. Graphically it was more simplistic than Wipeout, but here was an experience where it felt like my eyes were lying to me! I’m looking at the flat screen of the 3DS device, but objects on the screen were at different planes inside the screen! Of course, if you moved your line of sight out of the sweet-spot, then the images crossed over or merged and it broke the illusion, but for the time it worked, it was like a magic trick.

My next time was the first time trying VR playing a game. It was a game in development that my friend was working on, sadly never saw a final release, but it was basically Crazy Taxi, but the customers were zombies. I sat down in the driver position where I could look around and see the customer lurching over like a zombie from Resident Evil would, whilst looking back and seeing the car dashboard and the road ahead. The objects just seemed to be so real you could reach out and touch them!

Finally the aim of full 3D immersion in a virtual environment had been realised! Everything looked like it was going to be in 3D. And then, it didn’t.

TVs stopped having 3D. The 3DS ended and the next Nintendo console, the Switch, didn’t have 3D. PC and Playstation have VR headsets but most games are still on a regular 2D screen, which itself is not 3D. Movies stopped being in 3D.

Arguably the future of 3D and immersion lies in VR but the issue with VR headsets is that it so fully immerses you into the world that it excludes you from the real world that you’re in. For some experiences, that’s fine, but for others it’s not appropriate. VR is very much a singular experience; the other people looking round in bemusement as one person is sitting there with a giant headset covering their eyes and looking around randomly, those on the outside having no real experience of what’s going on. Even with PSVR, where what the player is seeing is still shown on the TV Screen, it doesn’t make sense really. Sure, that’s what the player is seeing, but why aren’t they looking at the screen! And why is the camera bobbing round so strangely, it’s enough to make a viewer motion-sick!

So the regular TV will stay, and that’s fine for me for the majority of my time. But why get rid of the stereoscopic display? I liked playing Wipeout HD on my old 3D TV on the PS3. Of course, the PSVR Version of the same game was more immersive, but I still enjoyed the regular 3D TV version too. It feels now like I have a choice on the PS4, either straight up VR, or only 2D. I miss the medium setting of still being aware of my surroundings and having the feature of a more 3D experience that 3D TVs gave, that 2D TVs didn’t.

I guess it’s down to economics and what people demanded and actually used, but I feel it’s a trend that’s sadly gone for now, and I miss it! I guess time will tell with the future of displays what features will carry forward and what will be dropped. Things like Samsung’s curved edge display on phones, Curved monitors and TVs, 4k, 8k, 120hz, 300hz, 10 bit HDR. There’s currently a glut of emerging features that are used some places and not in others. Time will tell what makes the cut and becomes standardised over time, but I must say that stereoscopic 3D on TVs is one that I miss

App Recommendation

Google Earth: A 3D representation of the earth. You can use it like google maps, whereby you search for locations and go there, but you can also pan, zoom and rotate a 3D aerial view. I quite often get lost in zooming round different places. Especially these days during lockdown where we can’t go anywhere, this provides a virtual tour of pretty much any outdoor place on earth!

Youtube Recommendation

Chrome: Its a web browser app. Big deal. These days they are all as performant as each other, and even the standard browser in your phone (be it Safari or the regular Android browser, which will almost certainly be a Chrome-renderer) but I also use Chrome on my laptop. The power comes when you sync your account with all devices and it retains your search history, bookmarks and passwords between devices. It’s a massive time-saver

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