Are You Ready for Some 3-D Football?

Hey, that halfback looks like he's coming right at me!

When the topic of 3-D pictures arises, most of us think about cheap cardboard glasses with red and blue plastic lenses allowing us to unevenly watch even cheaper monster movies (and then trying to regain normal vision afterward). Over the years, 3-D projects have come and gone like a vampire that refuses to finally die, even after the stake has been driven through its heart by the public, critics, and technologists alike. Still, some engineers working in the entertainment industry have steadfastly maintained that the big breakthrough in 3-D technology is just around the corner, one that could usher in an era in which consumers will adopt a new way of looking at the world on the screen.

Now, it appears the monster is back and looking for revenge. As reported in an article in the Boston Globe today, the latest incarnation of 3-D is being sponsored by no less an entertainment behemoth than the National Collegiate Athletic Association (or NCAA).

For the biggest football game on the NCAA calendar, the BCS National Championship Game in Miami (between the University of Florida and the University of Oklahoma) on 8 January, Fox Sports will beam a special version of its broadcast to a number of selected movie theaters across the United States using a new implementation of 3-D imaging technology.

The equipment to be employed by Fox Sports for the college championship game will be supplied by a small firm called 3ality Digital Systems, which specifically focuses on using its state-of-the-art 3-D digital image technology to capture live events such as concerts and sports matches. According to the Burbank, Calif., firm, their equipment ranges from robotic motion-control systems to image processing electronics to specially made polarized eyeglasses.

"3-D is going to change the way we experience media," Steve Schklair, chief executive of 3ality Digital, told the Boston Globe. "We've shown it to former NFL players and they say, 'I've been on hundreds of football fields, and this is like standing on the field'."

That's a claim we've heard many times in the past. It may be true, but rightly or wrongly 3-D still has a lot of historical baggage attached to it that will make the road today's firms such as 3ality need to climb a steep one.

It may be a thrill to see a great football game as if you were on the field participating. Still, there's a reason they insist that fans stay in the grandstand.


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