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3-D Made Simple

Software takes photos into a new dimension.

If the giant soda can that adorns your neighborhood vending machine looks so real you’re ready to reach out and grab it, the image was probably created by an Israeli company that has invented a new way to produce stereo 3-D images from ordinary photographs.

HumanEyes, based in Jerusalem, uses software algorithms developed by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to analyze the images a digital camera records in continuous or video mode as it sweeps over a scene. The software examines and integrates dozens to hundreds of frames and creates a continuum of “virtual” views. One-pixel-wide slices of selected views are interlaced, and the processed image is printed and attached to lenticular plastic-sheets of long thin lenses.

These lenses send different underlying pictures to each eye, giving the viewer the illusion of depth. And as the viewer’s angle shifts, different pairs of perspectives appear-just as if the viewer were walking past an actual scene. Other companies such as ProMagic in Vista, CA, also sell software for making lenticular images, but HumanEyes is the first to give stereoscopic photographs both realistic depth and this “panoramic” effect.

The technology’s first outing is in Chile, where HumanEyes’ images decorate Coca-Cola vending machines. Other companies will soon snap up the technology, predicts James Nail, a senior analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, MA. Meanwhile, HumanEyes is developing a home version of its software that will allow digital-camera hobbyists to create their own 3-D images.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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