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3D camera

A 3D camera is an imaging device that enables the perception of depth in images to replicate three dimensions as experienced through human binocular vision. Some 3D cameras use two or more lenses to record multiple points of view, while others use a single lens that shifts its position. The combination of the two perspectives, as with the slightly different perspective of two human eyes, is what enables depth perception. 3D photography can enable an immersive frozen-in-time moment for stills or video content that seems real enough to touch.

The principle behind the 3-D effect is called stereoscopy and the corresponding technology is known as stereoscopic imaging. The difference between objects seen through the left and right eyes (binocular disparity) is what enables perspective in human eyesight, along with our accommodation through focusing and visual center interpretation to integrate those two perspectives.

3D TV and movies have traditionally worked by alternating frames, two separate images – one for the right eye and one for the left – that are incorporated through the use of specialized glasses. Another technology known as autostereoscopic imaging (auto 3-D) is screen-based and does not require viewers to wear special glasses.

3D content created through dual capture can be viewed on all manner of 3D displays, including 3D TVs and monitors that use special glasses as well as displays like Nintendo 3DS. As 3D and virtual reality (VR) displays become more common, so will user-generated 3D content. 3D digital cameras, webcams and camcorders will provide a means of producing that content.

One current 3D camera, Intel’s RealSense device, comprises one 1080p camera and one infrared (IR) camera that works along with an IR laser projector to accurately measure 3D space. RealSense cameras are embedded in select laptops and desktop computers from Dell, HP and Lenovo.

This was last updated in September 2016

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