You could say 3D is the original creative technology, championed for years by mildly crazy creatives and visionaries.
The fact most of them came from the film industry is probably the reason that 3D has taken so long to come into its own.
We’ve been fixated on the promise of reality through stereoscopic film. And the glasses - everyone goes on about the glasses. Some of the biggest and brightest still reinforce this perception.
At best most people think 3D is a nifty gimmick. The more sceptical of us think it’s just a ploy to get us to buy a new TV or pay more at the cinema.
Personally, I think 3D is a classic case of a technology that was over-hyped in the short term but will prove to have been vastly under-estimated over the long term.
Sure, 3D films and games are becoming the norm. The hardware is better, cheaper and more widely available. If your current screen isn’t 3D, chances are your next one probably will be.
But 3D’s scope for innovation, excitement and change is much wider and way more interesting, and new visionaries and pioneers from completely different disciplines point the way forward.
With the obvious roots in gaming, Kinect hackers lead the charge.
They can replicate shoes, rooms or even people with a Kinect unit hooked up to a $100 3D scanner. Now that Kinect has face recognition and voice activation, next level experiences in your home are not far away.
Imagine what average people could - and would - do if the space and objects around them could be digitised and manipulated in seconds?
Their experiences would be more immersive, personal and emotive than simply interacting with pre-determined content.
Google goes even further than the hackers. They want to rebuild the whole world in 3D. Streetview. Stunning 3D modelling in Google Earth. 3D mapping on Android phones. Sketchup. Even Project Glass. All significant investments and innovations involving 3D.
At the same time as rebuilding the world, they’re collecting data, creating an unparalleled understanding of space, objects, human behaviour and the relationships between them.
In the field of medicine, Cornell University is a master of 3D. Two years ago, it announced technology that maps the inside of the body in 3D and projected it in a walk-through interactive display. It still impresses.
Interestingly, it's begun to apply its know-how to more creative and commercial applications. For example, its evolution-inspired Endlessforms project has two purposes - one is to eventually create replicants (yes, really). The other is to allow people to ‘grow’ objects in 3D and then make them.
It’s an interesting take on personalisation, with the added bonus of being able to give life to your creation if you have access to a 3D printer. And Cornell not only innovates in 3D printing, it happily shares its knowledge with the world.
It created the open-hardware 3D printer, Fab@Home. Uniquely, it was designed to ‘print’ anything - from stainless steel to foodstuffs. Cornell designed it, developed the software, gave the designs away for free and cultivated a community.
I’m convinced 3D printing will have a fundamental effect on the relationship between brands, service providers and consumers. Everyone who can afford one will soon have one.
That’s why Perfect Fools, the agency I work for, has invested in a 3D printer and is currently investigating its application with our clients.
Finally, from the field of entertainment, Dr Dre's vision, Snoop Dogg’s rhymes and Digital Domain’s skills showed what happens when you combine 3D-style technology with live music and 80,000 people. I was there. It was incredible. According to Digital Domain’s Nick Smith, it’s just the beginning.
Diverse examples, but all connected by a more conceptual approach to 3D’s fundamentals - space, objects and relationships. Depth and emotion doesn’t come from an optical illusion. It comes from interaction and making things physical.
In the short term, new sites, apps, etc, should be built with 3D screens and technology in mind. For the long term, now is the time to experiment more conceptually with 3D and prepare for the future.
3D won’t just be the film nirvana we’ve been sold, it’ll be a world we haven’t imagined yet.