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The Third Dimension Revealed

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A GPU turns your computer display into a window on true-to-life 3D worlds both realistic and fantastical

Humans evolved with two eyes set apart, giving us the ability to perceive depth. Early humans used this ability to discern the "z" axis — a third dimension in addition to two that define a flat plane — to become skilled hunters. You and I use it throw baseballs and judge the speed and distance of an oncoming car.

Until recently, this capability, known as stereoscopic vision, was mostly unexploited by modern technology. PC and TV screens are flat. Even games using 3D graphics appear on a flat screen. Graphic artists and cinematographers can fake a sense of depth using tricks like selectively blurring elements in the foreground or background — but in the end, they’re still presenting a 2D image.

That may not be true for long. Today we’re seeing the beginnings of a revolution in stereoscopic 3D. Movies, games, and TV are bringing the z-axis to the screen — and AMD RadeonTM HD 6000 GPUs are poised to play a big role in making it happen.

The first stereoscopic 3D movies were made decades ago, but the technology was crude, using those familiar tinted glasses. Today, better encoding technologies and high-tech glasses deliver a smoother and more natural effect. The hit movie Avatar was designed as a stereoscopic experience from the storyboards up. The result was an immersive and enthralling cinematic experience.

And now you can have the same experience on your PC. If your monitor can handle high refresh rates, most AMD RadeonTM  6000-series GPUs will enable stereoscopic 3D. GPUs can exploit the latest viewing technologies—LCD shutter glasses, polarized lenses, or even the old-fashioned bi-color specs. The price of advanced monitors and HDTVs has come down, and they also minimize headache and eyestrain. AMD’s approach to stereoscopic 3D is to support emerging open standards, rather than impose a proprietary approach.

The stereoscopic experience goes beyond movies. Cable channels dedicated to shows shot with stereoscopic cameras are on their way, and sporting events like PGA golfing and NASCAR racing are broadcast in stereoscopic 3D over the Internet. Stereoscopic 3D games generate dramatic effects. And Toshiba recently announced glasses-free "autostereoscopic" displays. Add those to the equation, and you’ve got a breakthrough as dramatic as color TV was 40 years ago.