Category Archives: 3-D

The Warshaw Curve, or why Kate Winslet is nude in 3-D

What does it mean that anyone can now easily create 3-D photos and video, or even print objects in three dimensions?

The birth of cheap production technology — film, music, websites, ad crowdsourcing — will probably lead to a “Warshaw Curve,” in my opinion: the idea by video producer Douglas Warshaw that a rise in the supply of any production technology typically creates an inverted, U-shaped bell curve of quality output. Draw a wide “U,” and on the left side write “bad stuff” and on the right write “good stuff,” and you’ll see the logic. In video, we have moved this way with grainy YouTube videos on one extreme and super-HD movie files on the other. In newsprint, we are seeing this with the surviving publishers being lousy local community papers or the high-quality New York Times. Knowledge is flowing this way with new communication networks enabling rapid scientific advance on one end and endless bloggers regurgitating “how to get social media ROI” on the other. Everyone in the middle gets killed when barriers to production or access fall. You have to either focus on more utility with low quality at mass scale (YouTube, IZEA advertising) or quality with artificial scarcity (“Titanic” now in 3-D, million-dollar spots on the Super Bowl).

3-D printing will create this same curve. My kids would love to build cheap Lego sets at home and I might toy with modeling. But, for many years, the output will be prolific and bad. If I want a good pair of running shoes, a mountain bike that won’t break down, a classical guitar, or a watch that flashes status, I won’t print it in the basement but will end up at specialty stores or the mall.

The inverted “U” of quality seems a normal distribution pattern in any network of production. As Len Kendall noted in the past (fall 2009 I recall, that’s right, buddy, I’m learning from you), most social media sentiment is neutral, with only a small percent of people loving or hating a brand. Even in our production of feelings, the majority is blah, with highest response in the extremes of poor or great. Material manufacture will follow the same curve of emotion, video, print, and knowledge, and it is a mistake to assume the peak on the high-quality end will disappear if low-quality output surges.

The real question, of course, is how Kate Winslet will feel having her now-younger self in love scenes projected on the big screen in 3-D.

Revised from my recent comment at Len Kendall and Gunther Sonnenfeld’s brilliant blog. Also posted at G+.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Ready Player One: Understanding Apple’s haptic future

Soon, Apple will let you touch artificial reality.

Haptics is a term meaning touch, the non-verbal forms of communication such as shaking hands or kissing on the cheek that involve sensations of the flesh. But if you read sci-fi such as Ernest Cline’s excellent “Ready Player One,” haptics provide touch feedback for a virtual future. Sure, you’ve seen 3-D movies. But imagine immersing yourself in a 3-D virtual world, either via giant flatscreen TV panel or a pair of goggles, and having gloves, leggings or a body suit that provides tactile feedback. You touch something, and via minute pulses in the gloves or suit, that something touches you back.

With high-definition virtual projections and haptic feedback, you could leave this world for an entirely new one.

Apple is playing around in this space now, adding teeth to speculation it may soon launch high-end TV sets with glasses-less 3-D. This patent details Apple’s plan for a haptic “feedback device” which uses a grid of sensors to (a) track where your body part is and (b) provide a feedback sensation when you move your hand, or whatever, through space. In technical terms:

“The haptels are coordinated such that force feedback for a single touch is distributed across all haptels involved. This enables the feel of the haptic response to be independent of where touch is located and how many haptels are involved in the touch. As a touch moves across the device, haptels are added and removed from the coordination set such that the user experiences an uninterrupted haptic effect.”
What does this mean? If you see a bottle floating in front of you in a future TV commercial, you could reach out, touch it, and feel the glass curve. If you play a video game on a giant 3-D screen, when you punch your opponent, your fist will feel the impact. Other than the obvious porn implications, computer and entertainment interfaces may soon no longer need keyboards or glass pads or remotes. Because unlike Kinect-type technology that only tracks your motion in space, you will be able to “touch” the projected elements in the space in front of you.

In “Ready Player One,” Cline imagines a lonely teenager who rents an apartment, staying inside to play virtual games clothed in a haptic suit, running on a circular treadmill, lost in a brilliant artificial world far away from this one. Now, Apple is making it real.

Microsoft Word, we hope you can keep up.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: Edward Drake

Spider-Man renewed and the novelty effect

So if the first Spider-Man film with Tobey Maguire came out only nine years ago, why in the world is Sony redoing the same Spidey 1 plot — this time, with buffer actor Andrew Garfield — set for release in summer 2012? Is our culture completely out of ideas?

Sony is actually making a clever move, rebooting what was a profitable franchise to include more grit, sex, and videogame offshoots that appeal to older demos. The challenge is how to manage the novelty effect, or the tendency of humans to respond more strongly to something that is new.

In psychology, the novelty effect is the heightened response humans have — in terms of stress, anticipation, or pleasure — from something new. Through our Darwinian ancestry we survived based on novelty; men who sought more mates were most likely to pass their genes on; women who invented communication charms were more likely to get those unfaithful men to stick around and help protect the children; clans who ate diverse foods and built new tools were most likely to be healthy and survive storms and wars. Sexual nuance, language, art, cooking, housing, and automotive sheet metal designs all grew out of our need for new things to survive.

The novelty effect is why Google+ seems so amazing, when it is really a slight rehash of Facebook, Twitter and Skype. It’s why your iPhone 4 looked so incredible last year, and why you’ll want to toss it aside when Apple launches a next-gen phone with a bigger touchscreen and no clunky home button. Novelty is why we sit through stupid films such as Transformers or Captain America with little new plot, because there are new explosions to see.

To test this idea, we asked a teenager to review the new Spider-Man trailer above. He said, “yes, the plot is the same — but check it out! Now, when Spider-Man flies, we’ll watch it from the first-person viewpoint, all in 3-D!”

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

What to think of Apple’s coming 3-D

In an age where tech geeks get excited about every minor Facebook UX update, it’s easy to lose the forest of trends for the trees. So let’s take a look at Apple’s recent patent for a glasses-free 3-D system.

First, the tech. Current 3-D systems require some form of glasses that allow images to be slightly shifted between your left and right eyes; two eyes, after all, are required to see in stereoscopic vision. Creating the illusion of depth in an image has been around since the 1860s, when photographers would shoot two frames from slightly different angles and use gadgets such as stereoscopic viewers to show one unique image per eye. Today’s most-modern 3-D televisions use a rapid blinking approach, in which the left- and then right-eye image are flashed across the entire TV screen hundreds of times per second, synchronized to glasses which use LED shutters to simultaneously shut the images off from alternate eyes. The illusion is pure holography, with the images floating in front of you, a stunning achievement.

Trouble is, those nasty glasses. They scratch. They need batteries. Frankly, you look like a fool. Apple has found a complex way to remove the need for eyeware by using Microsoft Kinect-type motion sensors to track where your eyes are in relation to the screen, and then projecting images accordingly to each eye. In simple terms, the screen will watch you, and then focus the images on your eyes, even if you adjust yourself on the couch. The obvious technicality is how to track two sets of eyes, so we predict 3-D will appear first on Apple laptops — what a differentiator, and Apple needs a new one because it can’t really make its portable computers any thinner.

When UX changes, so does users’ behavior

OK, so you get it: Better 3-D is coming, and it will be freaky cool. Imagine the scene on airplanes as businesspeople play their silly iPad games by flapping their hands in the air. But beyond Angry Birds and cartoons, what could really change? Technology has a habit of shifting consumers’ behavior: The telephone supported long-term relationships, the automobile created 45-mile commutes, the airplane allowed businesses near-global reach out of small offices … what appears initially as a new way to see the world eventually changes the world in which we live.

So imagine a laptop that projects a full-color hologram before you, with sensors that also track your hand movements, so if you reach out and “touch” the image it changes shape or location. Now imagine cheap 3-D screens everywhere: On table tops, on mall walls, on your car dashboard, on your bathroom mirror. People could design or build in three-dimensions; modeling could lead to the simulation of touching another’s face; the porn industry (admit it, the leader in most visual gimmickry) will have a field day. You could wake up in the morning and have a virtual dentist help inspect your teeth as your brush. The real implication could be a verisimilitude heretofore unseen among humans. The separation of virtual reality from realty will become so complete, the labels may fall away.

Falling costs could eventually embed 3-D screens on fabric, say, your clothes or pillow case. Did we mention porn? Yikes.

The implications for marketers could be negative. L.L. Bean would surely like to show you its winter coats in three dimensions. But imagine the difficulty The New York Times will have serving ads against content that floats in 3-D, giving real impetus for you to play with it in the air. People may turn to content that acts like the tools of yore, vs. passive entertainment to wash over them with accompanying marketing messages. In that world, ads might seem like flies, nuisances buzzing in the air to be swatted away.

Real 3-D is coming. It will add unforeseen dimensions to our behavior, and like most new elements, the end usage will be surprising.

Yes, soon you’ll own a 3-D TV

Technology is best taken with a grain of salt. We’ve written in BusinessWeek that widgets won’t work (wrong), Twitter ads will fail (right), and Google may get its search lunch eaten by mobile (the verdict is still out). But man. 3-D video may change the world.

We discovered this by entering a giant Panasonic booth at the SXSW trade show. Sure, we thought, another visual gizmo. Two guys in front of us were skeptical as well. “I mean, how much better can my eyes possibly see?” one dude asked. But inside the unit, a giant screen and battery-powered glasses gave the future game away. The technology works by flashing hundreds of frames per second on a giant high-def screen, with each frame alternating points of view; the powered glasses have lenses that shutter the left, then right eye rapidly in succession, so fast you can’t notice. The result is two angled images, just like real life, beamed to your brain by each eyeball. Whoa. Soccer balls soared past our head in high-def. Avatar aliens soared through trees. The biggest surprise was typographic and graphics — bright hard edges leap forward, making us wonder what salespeople will do with PowerPoint in a few years.

Panasonic and Sony are pushing 3-D hard. Wired has a complete writeup of Sony’s efforts, which include pushing 3-D into consumer cameras as well, so mom can watch little Johnny wiggle in the air. There’s tremendous energy behind this because Sony has missed some recent tech advances, such as the portable MP3 music market now owned by Apple (and lost a billion dollars in 2008 to boot); meanwhile the average U.S. home now has more 2-D televisions than people. But the real reason is the experience is nothing like you’ve seen before. A minor quibble; with some crowd scenes the people and objects look miniature, a bit of a tilt-shift camera effect that makes you feel like you could reach out and squash them. Guess you’ll have to spring for a big set.

NewsCorp stock likes its new Avatar

Wow. We’ve heard of hype machines, but buzz is so strong over the new James Cameron “Avatar” film that Pali Capital analyst Rich Greenfield upgraded NewsCorp stock from “sell” to “neutral.” If you can get past the use of “game changer” in the clip, Greenfield’s enthusiasm does make you wonder if 3-D is finally here. Sigourney Weaver has been quoted as saying “Avatar” may have the impact on 2-D film that “Wizard of Oz” did on black and white. Sure, she’s an actress promoting her flick, but if live-action 3-D brings crowds back to big screens, Sigourney may be right.

Next up, 3-D in your bedroom.

The question is whether 3-D will be a sustainable competitive advantage for movie theaters, which have been nervously watching the rise of large flat-panels in consumers’ basements. Television manufacturers are racing to build 3-D sets that work in your home — JVC, Mitsubishi, Panasonic and Sony all have three-dimensional toys on deck. Like flat panels, if the sets really work, a groundswell of consumers will rush to buy in. Still, some analysts say the home 3-D technology is nowhere near the clarity of the big screen — Shane Sturgeon, publisher of HDTV Magazine, said the home stuff gave him a headache. Programming has to catch up, and the gigantic swaths of bandwidth required for 3-D data transmission all put the home adoption curve off a few years.

For now: Sigourney, here we come.

Sports fans swing for the lenses

We read once that human eyes lose their sensitivity to color over time, which is why memories of the green grass and blue sky from your toddler days seem so, well, green and blue. Fading eyesight explains why old people in Florida wear plaid pants, and perhaps why U.S. sports fans have now become dolts that watch 3-D television projections of the game while they sit in the very stadiums in which the game is being played.

Now we certainly don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoys watching people in spandex bump into each other; in some countries that is not tolerated but here in America we call it football. Our point: The emergence of cheap, giant-screen, flat-panel screens is starting to encroach on reality. Panasonic chief Toshihiro Sakamoto opened CES this year with a 150-inch plasma called, fittingly, the Life Screen — not to be confused with the Life Wall, another Panasonic treat that covers entire walls of a consumer’s home. (Imagine it: “Honey, I told you to turn off that wallpaper!”) Light-bulb-maker Philips has been playing with screens that intercept reality via clear glass, so you can look outside a window or wave your hand to grow a shade tree to block the neighbor’s view.

No real news here except the fakery of colored images has been arriving for a while; U.S. office workers spend one-third of each day in front of a screen moving numbers and words around, then drive home to watch the tube. The Super Bowl is almost here and consumers are talking more about the upcoming ads, to be shown on screens, than the game itself. The players meanwhile will dance around a moving yellow line on the field that doesn’t really exist, except for video projection and GPS camera technology giving fans at home a clear view of where the ball needs to go. Reality, it was lovely; we’ll miss you when you’re gone.

Now you, too, can stick ads into video

Ray Bradbury once wrote that at a certain level technology appears to be magic. Well, now you can magically drop photos or videos on the surface of walls in any video. The brainiacs at Stanford have created a drag-and-drop technology that makes 3-D manipulation easy, a play on those ads behind the ball players in major sports games … and of course are looking at a business model where advertisers pay you, dear consumer, a few bucks to have their logo inserted behind Grandma in the Christmas home movie. The creators call it ZunaVision.

Is reality gone forever? About so. By the way, we can’t recall if Ray Bradbury said that about tech and magic, but since this is our blog we inserted his name anyway.

Via Dirk Singer and AdRants.

Architecture drafting tables, we weep for thee

Make the Logo Bigger introduces us to Video Trace, a 3-D modeling program that makes it head-slappingly easy for a user to trace images from video stills and quickly create complex architectural diagrams. It’s also a bit scary, if you follow the video all the way through, how it allows users to manipulate video images and alter the “reality” before your eyes (watch the truck clone itself).

Wonder what happens when creating opinions about the world’s news moves from web sites and blogs to editing the actual video images.