Five innovations that will change our lives, part one: 3D
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Five innovations that will change our lives, part one: 3D

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Let's look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

Innovation one: you'll beam up your friends in 3D. In the next five years, 3D interfaces -- like those in the movies -- will let you interact with 3D holograms of your friends in real time. Movies and TVs are already moving to 3D, and as 3D and holographic cameras get more sophisticated and miniaturized to fit into cell phones, you will be able to interact with photos, browse the web and chat with your friends in entirely new ways.

Scientists are working to improve video chat to become holography chat -- or "3D telepresence." The technique uses light beams scattered from objects and reconstructs a picture of that object, a similar technique to the one human eyes use to visualize our surroundings.

You'll be able to see more than your friends in 3D, too. Just as a flat map of the earth has distortion at the poles that makes flight patterns look indirect, there is also distortion of data -- which is becoming greater as digital information becomes "smarter" -- like your digital photo album. Photos are now geo-tagged, the web is capable of synching information across devices and computer interfaces are becoming more natural.

Scientists at IBM Research are working on new ways to visualize 3D data, working on technology that would allow engineers to step inside designs of everything from buildings to software programs, running simulations of how diseases spread across an interactive 3-D globe, and visualizing trends happening around the world on Twitter -- all in real time and with little to no distortion.

So how will 3D impact the Mac? Eventually, we'll see Macs with 3D displays. In fact, the MSI Wind Top AE2420 3D ( -- the world’s first 3D touch screen all-in-one computer -- may offer a glimpse at upcoming Apple all-in-ones.

Unlike 3D TVs, the Wind Top AE2420 3D is designed to address the current disconnect between people’s interest in 3D entertainment, and the limited availability of content, as it can bring almost any 2D content -- from home movies to DVD rentals and 3D Blu-Ray -- to life in 3D, according to the folks at MSI.

The Wind Top AE2420 3D is powered by Intel Core i7 processors, just like the high-end iMacs. They sport 24-inch, multi-touch screens and exclusive wireless 3D shutter glasses (with rechargeable batteries). Now imagine all these features on a 27-inch iMac. Actually, with the Magic Trackpad Apple might let that serve as the multi-touch aspect of its all-in-one, but, otherwise, wouldn't the Apple take on the Wind Top's technology/functionality be a mind-blowing system?

Also, in June 2010 CyberLink Corp. debuted the PowerDVD 10 ULTRA 3D, which enables Blu-ray 3D movie playback on computers. With PowerDVD, consumers will purportedly be able to enjoy full 1080p high-definition stereoscopic video on Blu-ray 3D movies. But since Apple CEO Steve Jobs seems dead-set against Blu-ray support on the Mac, this will probably never come to our favorite computing platform. But we can always hope, can't we?

Whenever 3D comes to the Mac, it won't happen before we can watch 3D without special glasses. The IDG research group report found that (as you could probably guess) most people don't want to wear polarized glasses to watch 3D TV, and many balk at the price, up to $200 per pair for some of the glasses.

iOS devices may also obtain 3D displays, although I think this will take longer than a 3D Mac. There are still lots of kinks to work out. And Nintendo has issued a warning, saying that the 3D mode on the Nintendo 3DS shouldn’t be used by children under the age of six, because their vision is still in development. The way the stereoscopic 3D works on the device “has a potential impact on the growth of children’s eyes.”

-- Dennis Sellers


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