PC games are entering the third dimension with two new technologies that are designed to display real stereoscopic 3D images from 3D games. 3D Vision, the solution from Nvidia, uses active shutter glasses, while 3D monitors from manufacturers like IZ3D and Hyundai use polarized light and passive glasses. While both approaches are able to produce 3D images, there are pros and cons to each approach.
The 3D Vision kit from Nvidia includes a set of active shutter glasses that must be used in conjunction with a monitor that can refresh at 120hz and an Nvidia graphics card. With this solution, 30 frames of animation are rendered per second for each eye. Then, the frames are shown in alternating order, one left frame, then one right frame and so on. The shutter glasses are powered by a battery and sync wirelessly with the computer. When a frame for one eye is displayed on the monitor, the lens of the glasses over the other eye goes black. This switches back and forth many times each second so that each eye sees 30 frames per second. A 120hz monitor is needed for this as a 60hz monitor can only display 30 frames per second total, while you need 30 frames for each eye.
This solution works pretty good but has a few draw backs. One is that the effective brightness of the monitor is reduced by about 50% by the shuttering. This can make everything look either too dark, or washed out if you turn the brightness of the game or monitor up. The shuttering can also cause some people to get headaches after prolonged use, as the eyes can slightly detect it. This solution can also be rather expensive, as the glasses cost $200.00, a 120hz monitor costs around $400.00, and an Nvidia graphics card that can handle 60 fps on most games will typically cost over $100.00. On the other hand, if you already have a newer Nvidia graphics card and a 120hz monitor (most monitors are not) then this may be the less expensive option.
The other option is to get a 3D monitor that uses light polarization and passive polarized glasses to display separate images to each eye. These monitors converge the frames for the left and right eye into one frame and then use light polarization to display part of the frame to each eye. This solution is similar to the technology used in modern 3D movie theaters and is also able to produce a good 3D effect. There are a few drawbacks with these monitors as well. The clarity of the image is somewhat reduced as not every pixel is rendered for each eye for every frame. Also, the polarization is not perfect, and there can be “color bleed” on some colors causing some 3D items to have a sort of light nimbus around them.
However, the 3D monitors are the more comfortable option as the passive glasses are much less likely to cause eye strain and headaches. It is also the less expensive option as the monitors start at around $320.00 and can be used with most graphics cards that have dual output.
The bottom line is that while both of these new 3D display options have their drawbacks, they both can produce pretty amazing 3D results. Whatever option you choose, your favorite games will be more immersive and more fun when you see them for the first time in 3D.