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Stereoscopic Displays and Virtual Reality Systems V (1998)

The Proceedings of the two conferences:
Stereoscopic Displays and Applications IX and The Engineering Reality of Virtual Reality V (1998)


A special forum on Stereoscopic Imaging Standards was held at the 1998 meeting of the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications (SD&A) Conference. Panel members were Dave Milici (StereoGraphics Corporation), David Qualman (NuVision, Inc.), Donald Sawdai (University of Michigan and VRex, Inc.), and Andrew Woods (Curtin University, Australia). It was moderated by Mike Weissman (The Human Interface Technology Lab, University of Washington), and there were good contributions from the audience.

The objective of the forum was to summarize current efforts in defining standards for stereoscopic imaging and to determine what needs further work and how the SD&A group can help. There is now general agreement among the small group of companies and universities engaged in stereoscopic, or "3D", imaging that establishing industry-wide standards can only help the industry grow.

The term "stereoscopic imaging" refers to the whole process of how to capture, transmit, edit, modulate, store, and display stereoscopic image pairs. Standards are needed for various stages of this process. The following areas were identified at the forum:

1. Display Formats: Will graphics board manufacturers support the various formats that people use?
2. Hardware Interfaces: Can we all use standard signal specifications and connectors?
3. Software Interfaces: Can both low-level drivers and high-level libraries be provided to software developers?
4. File Formats: Can we establish one or more standard file formats so that users can easily transfer image files from one system to another?
5. 3D Video: Which field is which eye?
6. Digital Video: How does stereoscopic imaging fit into the coming digital video revolution?

The participants heard that good progress has been made in some of these areas. Dave Milici and Jeff Halnon (also of StereoGraphics) reported that extensions have been made to the VESA BIOS that will help the (low-level) programmer in developing stereo applications. (VESA is the standards committee for PC graphics adapters.) StereoGraphics, VRex, NuVision, and other companies, have been working with VESA to establish the "VESA Stereo Connector and Signal Standard". This sets a common specification for the graphics card connector that drives stereo shutter devices.

Progress is also being made in providing upper-level programming tools. More stereo functions are now included in industry-standard libraries such as OpenGL and DirectDraw, and some companies (VRex and NuVision) are providing complete stereoscopic "development kits". VRex, in conjunction with Chasm Graphics, StereoGraphics, and NuVision, has proposed a "General Purpose Stereoscopic Data Descriptor" to be used as a header for all stereo image files. In particular, when used with JPEG files, this defines a file type called "JPS", or "JPEG/Stereo".

The discussion at the forum recognized one area where work is needed: the coming digital video "revolution". It is important for the stereoscopic imaging industry that new digital formats and transmission schemes will support stereo image pairs. As is the case with "2D" video, we all hope that the new HDTV technology will give us high-definition 3D TV also.

The forum concluded with a discussion of what to do next and what organizations should be approached to help us. One action item was to use Internet news groups and our new SD&A website to disseminate standards information. The URL for the site is:

The SD&A committee will make sure that documents and proposals are available here. Another action item is to contact professional societies (SPIE, IS&T, IEEE, SMPTE, etc.) to see what they do in regard to setting up standards committees. And, of course, we should keep working with VESA with regard to computer applications.

I wish to thank all those who participated in the forum, and I look forward to continued collaboration in the effort to set industry-wide stereoscopic imaging standards.

Mike Weissman,
The Human Interface Technology Lab,
University of Washington,
Seattle, Washington.

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Stereoscopic Displays and Applications conference

Maintained by: Andrew Woods
Revised: June 19, 1999.