By Charlie Sorrel

April 30, Wired

Some of science fiction's predictions have passed fitfully into the present; video phones and geostationary satellites for example. Others seem destined to remain forever in the hereafter, despite being almost universal in movies and literature. The list will be familiar: jetpacks, food pills, silver clothes with giant collars.

One technology, though, resurfaces every few years and makes it to market, only to disappear into the morass of nostalgia soon after. These are 3-D displays, attempts to turn boring old flat telly into a depth-charged experience. Some products failed because they were junk, others just fade from view and resurface years later. This is a list of the most notable flops.

3-D Spex

We see in three dimensions because we have two eyes. Our brain compares the images, works out the differences and presents us with in depth information. Try it: Close one eye and then try to touch your index fingers together. Tricky, huh? Until we achieve a true holographic display, all 3-D tech works by presenting the brain with two images. 3-D spex do this using anaglyphs, which combine two images from different cameras into one, but coloring the two images differently. By wearing the corresponding colors over our eyes, each eye sees a different picture.

The original green/red split works for black and white images, and red/cyan is OK for color. The problem is, you end up feeling seasick. Another version uses polarized lenses which flicker on and off, revealing one frame onscreen to one eye at a time. Fine if it is in sync, and free of color casts. If the setup isn't good, though, you'll be running straight to the bathroom.

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photo by 3dnatureguy/Wikipedia