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Watching 3-D video usually means donning a geeky pair of colored or polarized glasses – not the kind of fashion statement you want to make at the office. But at the University of California, Berkeley, computer scientists David Nguyen and John Canny are building an office videoconferencing system that adds a third dimension to ordinary streaming-video images, no glasses required. “The dynamics people have when they’re working in the same room” – who’s looking at whom, for example – “are all taken away when you meet over a 2-D videoconference link,” says Nguyen. So he and Canny built an array of seven cameras, each with a slightly different view, that link via a computer to seven video projectors. A special, multilayered screen focuses the light from each projector so that a viewer’s right and left eyes receive images from adjacent cameras, creating a stereo effect. The pair plan to finish a prototype they can show to potential licensees by the end of 2005.

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