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Cellophane creates 3D camera phone

13 Dec 2004

Ordinary cell phones can have 3D displays by covering the screen with a sheet of cellophane.

Keigo Iizuka from the University of Toronto in Canada has come up with a simple and inexpensive way to make a 3D camera cell phone. The crucial element is a 25 micron thick sheet of the packing material cellophane which acts as a half waveplate, rotating the polarization of light emitted from the phone's display. (Applied Optics 43 6285)

"There is no deterioration of the quality of the picture in the process of making it 3D," Iizuka told Optics.org. "You can convert easily from 2D to 3D by slipping the cellophane on and off. You can also connect the camera phone to a laptop and view an enlarged 3D picture for a number of audiences."

In his paper, Iizuka describes ways to create a 3D image. The first set-up uses two camera phones placed 6.5 cm apart. Each phone takes a photo and transmits it to two receiving phones. The received images are transposed and a cellophane sheet is placed over one phone to rotate the polarization of the image. The 3D image can be viewed using polarization glasses.

The second setup uses one phone. A special set of optics is slipped over the lens of the camera phone to take a stereoscopic image. This image is then sent to a receiving phone where half the screen is covered by cellophane. Again, the 3D image can be viewed through crossed-polarizer glasses.

As an added benefit, Iizuka explains that the single phone user can preview the 3D image. "By placing a cellophane sheet over half the screen and using polarizing glasses, the screen acts as a real-time 3D display," he said. "The sender can evaluate what the 3D image looks like."

Iizuka is now using the same principles to convert a conference video phone for the Canadian Hearing Society into a 3D display. "Sign language is inherently a 3D form of communication and its nuances often suffer when rendered into two dimensions," he explains. "I have designed larger size stereoscopic mirrors that can fit the TV camera on the transmitting site. On the receiving site, one half of the LCD monitor is covered by a large cellophane sheet. The participants have to wear polarized glasses."

As well as the sign language application, Iizuka told Optics.org that he is also working on a 3D display of internal organs to assist surgeons in the operating room.

Although he has no immediate plans to commercialise his idea, Iizuka believes there would be a large market to make 3D games on camera phones.

Jacqueline Hewett is technology editor on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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