Sunday, January 18, 2009

"HARDWARE: 3D Webcam streams anaglyphs"

Dual video cameras and anaglyph processing software realize an inexpensive 3D stereoscopic webcam from Promotion & Display Technology Ltd. (PDT, Manchester, England). Called Minoru (the name of King Edward VII's horse) the 3D webcam was announced at this month's Consumer Electronics Show (CES, Jan. 8-11, 2009).

Conceived by PDT designer David Holder, Minoru won the "Fans Favorite" award at the i-stage competition--a preconference contest where companies can submit their new consumer electronic devices to a panel of judges before the actual CES. The slick molded plastic housing around Minoru makes it look like a cuddly pal akin in to a small robot with the visual appeal of ET. Holder claims the cute design is actually functional, since its appearance as akin to a person makes it more natural to look Minoru in-the-eye when using it as a webcam.

The Minoru cameras are space the same distance apart as the human eyes (about 2.5 inches) and uses a single USB cable to connect to any PC running Windows XT or Vista. Software provided with the camera converts the two images, for left and right eyes, into a single image encoded for the red and blue lenses of standard anaglyph glasses. Minoru can also be used as a normal 2D webcam or can provide a picture-in-picture image.

Minoru can be used to video chats using Windows Live Messenger, Skype, AOL instant messenger, OoVoo and other video conferencing systems. The twin CMOS image sensor-based cameras encode video data streams at 800-by-600, 640-by-480, 352-by-288 or 320-by-240 pixels per frame. A special chip inside Minoru handles the stereo video encoding at a rate of 30 frames per second. Power consumption is just 1.5 Watts or (2 milliWatts in standby mode).

Minoru 3D Webcam is available from for $90.