The 3D stereoscopic renderings we have been creating of late aren't actually that new at all as a recent visit to Oxford's Museum of the History of Science made very clear.
Stereoscopic rendering essentially involves creating an image for each eye to see. Our eyes are about 60 or 70mm apart from each other. Normally, when we are looking at an image on the screen or on printed media, both eyes are looking at the exact same thing. Although - for an architectural visualisation at least - the rendered image was created from a 3D model, the print is very definitely flat. Depth information in the image - the cues that help the viewer ascertain the three dimensionality - are in part derived from learned perceptions of perspective, light and shade. To enhance the 3D look of a given image, we use various artistic techniques to exaggerate certain depth cues, such as distant haze and saturation. We also make creative use of lighting to help key elements of the composition pop out of the page.
All these sorts of 'tricks' help reinforce the believability of an image and the understanding of the development.
Now, to really perceive depth in an image, each eye needs to see it's own version of the scene, just as we see the world in real life. We do this by creating two separate renders, one for each eye, 65mm apart. To enable the viewer to see this 3D effect, we use Google Cardboard devices, or better still, the Gear VR.
As leading edge as the Gear VR is, the idea has been around for a long time: since the early days of photography in fact. At the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, adjacent to displays of technical, optical equipment such as telescopes, microscopes and binoculars, sits an entire cabinet of early 3D cameras. Many were designed and created as novelty items, but the vast majority of them are solid pieces of hardware, made from materials such as brass and hardwood. A number of them had serious military uses, such as stereo map reading during the war to help determine the lay of the land for bombing raids.
It is well worth a trip to the museum if you get the opportunity: next to the case of 3D cameras is a blackboard with Einstein's very own, handwritten equations scrawled across. This is worth the journey alone if you ask me!
To discuss stereoscopic renders for your next visualisation project or see examples, please get in touch. They are incredibly powerful ways to take architectural visualisation into another dimension.