Sunday, January 29, 2012

Library tool puts the 3-D back into century-old photos


Library tool puts the 3-D back into century-old photos
Each of these archival images has two versions from slightly different angles

3-D technology generally conjures images of cutting-edge tech, the likes of which most of us can't even afford to put in our living rooms. But with a cool new undertaking, the ever forward-thinking New York Public Library has pulled together a vast collection of roughly 100-year-old archival images for a very clever proto-3-D project. The result is a crowd-sourced 3-D DIY project playfully named theStereogranimator.

The stash of more than 40,000 images in question has a unique twist: the images are stereographs, meaning that each belongs to a pair that depict the same scene from two very slightly different angles. The effect of combining the two images is known in photography as stereoscopy, a technique that had its heyday between 1850 and 1930. Merging any two images and alternating between them gives rise to the illusion of 3-D depth, thanks to the limitations of binocular human vision.

So go on, forget Avatar, and have some fun splicing sepia-toned photos together to create your own 3-D animated GIFs. The effect of the Stereogranimator project is pretty striking, especially when you're playing around with images of horse-drawn buggies that are suddenly popping out of your screen in the third dimension.

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