Patent Monkey: Digital 3D Photography Preparing for Internet Viewing

This week, Pentax received a patent on a 3-D imaging system with distance controls while two individual inventors patented a means for viewing 3-D digital images on the Internet. The art of Stereoscopy has been around for a century, but what’s captivating is where this space can go with the explosion in the digital realm.

Pentax’s patent covers the technique of using two viewing lenses, a distance sensor and adjusting lenses to the appropriate viewing distance and capturing the two images with common photographic coverage. Stereo images rely on a slight overlap of the image to create depth, but the ways to view them have evolved from two sheets in a viewing box to the more recent 3-D glasses. With the proliferation of digital and the internet, a new landscape can now develop.

Inventors Palm and Lynn have patented a 3-D stereo image browser for the internet. In essence, 3-D viewing of images requires not only an X and Y of the image, but a 3rd plain for viewing (Z) that would need a file type, and a viewer that can handle the display. All of which requires new standards across the cameras and internet. Web3d is taking a shot at a set of open standards for real time 3D communication using XML. Open standards make some sense a sa there’s a long history of stereo camera technologies (list of stereoscopy patents).

An interesting convergence of technologies may finally spark a new viewing experience in a virtual world. Add the development of PureDepth’s Mulit-Layer Displays with the huge adoption of digital images to build virtual worlds like Google Earth and Microsoft’s Photosynth, maybe its time for stereography (or even more images per click) to finally take off the glasses and move into prime time.