As promised, below is an interview I did with iZ3D about their new 22″ iZ3D monitor! While not named directly for each question, it was a collaborative effort between Thomas Striegler, iZ3D’s CEO, David Chechelashvili, their VP of Marketing, and Vadim Asadov, their Chief Technology Officer.
1. Before we talk about your new monitor, tell me about iZ3D. How long have you guys been around, and what are your roots? Were you always called iZ3D?
Since 2001, Neurok Optics, LLC developed various 3D visualization technologies and introduced a 17″ iZ3D monitor in 2006. To develop and manufacture a larger 22″ W iZ3D monitor, that is more attractive for gamers, Neurok Optics, LLC discussed with Chi Mei Optoelectronics forming a JV. In January 2007, iZ3D LLC was formed as a Joint Venture Company, that is 50/50 owned by Taiwan based Chi Mei Optoelectronics, and San Diego based Neurok Optics, LLC.
2. What was it about stereoscopic 3D that got your company excited?
We always thought that the visualization should not be flat, but be as close to the real world as possible. Coupled with the fact that there has been no major change in display and TV industries since color replaced black and white, we decided to change the world.
3. Tell us about Chi-Mei. Who are they and how are you related to them?
Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO), headquartered at Tainan Science-based Industrial Park, Taiwan, is one of the world’s leading TFT-LCD companies. Its key products include large-size TFT-LCD panels for notebooks, desktop monitors, and TV applications. The company has 25,000 employees and is listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange (TSE). In 2006, it shipped 33.2- million TFT LCDs and had revenue of $5.8 billion (US). For the iZ3D LLC JV company, CMO designed the 22″W product and manufactures the iZ3D monitors.
4. “The first 3D monitor designed for gamers”. Why are gamers so important to you?
We are gamers, and that’s why gamers are so important for us. “We” are very important for ourselves, but seriously, we love playing video games and we love 3D. Frustrated with the lack of appropriate 3D systems, we founded our company with the mission to give gamers a 3D solution that they can enjoy for hours, without headaches and nausea after minutes of using it.
5. Now we can talk about the monitor. What does it do exactly?
iZ3D monitors consist of two superimposed liquid crystal (LC) panels. Similar to 3D movies, iZ3D technology is based on polarized light to create images for left and right eye viewing. But unlike film and filters with fixed polarizer angles for projectors, iZ3D controls left and right eye image creation by dynamically changing the polarity of each picture element (pixel). Left eye and right eye images are addressed and controlled simultaneously. With the software based iZ3D image control algorithm, the back TFT LCD is controlling the intensity of the transmitted light and the front TFT LCD controls the polarization angle of the transmitted light.
6. S-3D has been around for some time with a wide range of solutions on the market. What makes your monitor’s hardware special? What are its specs?
Since our mission was to develop a solution for gamers, we focused on eliminating problems that were preventing wide spread use of S-3D monitors. iZ3D features wide 3D viewing angles, allows for continuous hours of comfortable use, is easily switchable between 2D and 3D modes, it is compatible with all major games, and features lightweight and stylish polarized glasses. You can find iZ3D specs HERE.
7. Your first product was an iZ3D 17″ monitor. Other than size and resolution, have you made any qualitative changes when you upgraded to a 22″ version? What were they?
With Chi Mei as manufacturing partner, we can afford to use the highest quality optical and electrical parts. We are also able to modify our panels at a factory level to contribute to the high quality of the final product. We did not have that luxury with 17″ model. And of course we made major changes in the software, offering iZ3D drivers, instead of Nvidia stereo drivers that we relied upon for 17″ model.
8. You are asking $999 for the monitor. How did you arrive at this pricing, and how do you see gamers justifying the expense?
The pricing is the result of the thinnest margin that will allow us to exist. We are more interested in growing the market rather than reaping profits in the short term. We are long-term players, and our goal is to make 3D monitors/TVs a must have for every household. Especially for gamers, who love to have the best, the newest, and the coolest. Considering the price and performance ratio of competitive products, the 22″W iZ3D monitor is a bargain.
9. The iZ3D monitor is referred to as a “hardware and software” solution. Tell us about the software.
The function of the software is to display correct images on front and back panels. Left and Right image information is streamed through the Graphics card and is converted by the iZ3D algorithm into Back and Front information. The Back and Front information is transmitted to Back and Front panels of the iZ3D monitor. The Back panel information is then combined with the information on the Front, which is a mix of depth cues intended for the left eye, when polarized to 45 degrees, and for the right eye when polarized to 135 degrees. The superimposed images, which are different for the left eye and the right eye, same as observed in nature, are simultaneously sent to the brain, where the images are combined into one 3D image.
10. Your drivers support post processing effects, what does this mean?
Post processing effects, such as lighting, reflections, and shadows have a very complex rendering pipeline and it was challenging to implement double rendering capabilities in the iZ3D drivers. But we succeeded with iZ3D drivers based post processing for most major games.
11. Your drivers support AMD/ATI graphics cards as well as NVIDIA cards, why is this such a big deal in the industry?
There are several reasons. First it is always good to support the small but still significant percentage of gamers who own ATI cards. Second, having competition is always healthy, and while Nvidia for a long time enjoyed an exclusive position in the S-3D industry, this monopoly can come to an end soon. And finally maybe this will wake up ATI’s interest in S-3D gaming market. So far they have been invisible.
12. Do your drivers support Windows Vista?
iZ3D drivers support DirectX8 and DirectX9 games under the Vista operating system.
13. Does your monitor support DirectX 10 and OpenGL?
Both are in development, expected to be released around Q4 2007, Q1 2008
14. What is “windowed mode”? Why is this so special?
Direct3D allows two distinct display modes:
Exclusive mode: Due to the direct connection between Direct3D and the display driver, a Direct3D device is able to fully cover the screen. Any request to use the display device will fail while an application is in exclusive mode.
Windowed mode: The result is shown inside the area of a window. Direct3D needs to communicate with GDI to complete the representation.
Some of the games (MS FSX) and vertical applications (Google Earth, MS Virtual Map, etc) are working in windowed mode only. We received extensive feedback from our prospective customers, and a couple of months ago we made a strategic decision to support “windowed” mode in iZ3D drivers.
15. Your drivers were first revealed at Dimension-3 Expo in June. Since then, our members have been going nuts wondering if you will be releasing a version for other S-3D solutions. Will you?
The answer is maybe, but definitely not until Q1 of 2008. We need to find the right business model that will justify supporting competitive solutions.
16. In your advertisements, you say that your monitor is compatible with all popular video games. Can you elaborate? What can a customer do if their favorite game doesn’t work?
You can find a full list of games tested and supported by iZ3D HERE. If you cannot find your favorite game on the list, please let us know via our new technical support system. We evaluate such requests based on volume.
17. For now, your drivers do most of the work as far as getting a proper 3D image on the screen. What can game developers do to get the most out of monitors like yours and other solutions like it?
In order to maximize gamer experiences in S-3D it is very important that game developers render correct stereo. MTBS can play a leading role in educating and encouraging game developers to make gaming in 3D a most enjoyable experience.
18. According to 2006 figures, the video game industry is a twelve billion dollar industry. The fact is, games sell well as it is. Why is your monitor and solutions like it important for game developers? How does this help them?
There are endless opportunities as soon as game developers realize that 3D can be a tremendously competitive advantage in this tough industry. Games can be developed around S-3D features, i.e. making game play even more enjoyable. For example, developing a new game that evolves around 3D features could have a far reaching effect, in our opinion.
19. Other than the drivers, what other software features does your monitor offer?
You can download our newest creation – iZ3D Player. iZ3D Player is based on Movie Player Classic and is usable as 2D or 3D player. In 3D mode, the iZ3D Player supports side-by-side, above/under and line-by-line movie formats.
20. It took longer than expected to get your monitor out to market. Can you share with us some of the challenges you faced, and some of the steps you took to make the product a success?
Optimism met realism and the desire to bring to market a reliable quality product won over the desire to introduce the product at record speed.
21. While your product is innovative, S-3D has been around for some time, and it has clearly had its pitfalls. What’s different today? In addition to your product, how do you envision the S-3D industry’s future? Is it going to have explosive mass appeal, or a niche market success? Why?
Hopefully we all learned from past mistakes. The difference today is that everyone seems to realize that correctly done and top quality content as well as easy to use, friendly S-3D systems are the key to bringing S-3D to masses. While Hollywood is leading the trend, hopefully game developers will follow suit and realize that correct 3D rendering is the key to wide acceptance of 3D gaming. I can see game developers participating more and more in organizations like MTBS.
The S-3D industry definitely has a potential of mass appeal, however the market is in its infancy stage, and the natural curve of adoption needs to happen before the products will become appealing to wide masses.
22. The industry as a whole now has viable S-3D products, Hollywood is making 3D movies, and speaking from MTBS’ point of view, gamers are really taking an interest in this technology. In your opinion, what’s the last piece of the puzzle?
We are uncertain that it will be the last piece of the puzzle, but 3D home entertainment content, besides electronic games, is certainly an important piece of the puzzle. Another equally important piece of the puzzle is setting standards in the industry that is in its embryonic stage. That’s why we expect that organizations like MTBS will play an increasingly important part educating, and helping to establish standards in S-3D.
23. Aside from selling millions of iZ3D units, if an industry genie could give you anything you wanted, what three wishes would you ask for?
1. Industry standards are set and accepted by major players, especially Microsoft (gives us less headaches).
2. High quality 3D content readily available sooner than planned.
3. Percentage of population not capable of seeing 3D suddenly starts seeing it.
24. What’s next from iZ3D?
As display prices decrease, the market progresses to larger display sizes, so will iZ3D products increase in size which places opportunities besides PC gaming in iZ3D LLC’s sight.
25. If readers could walk away with one message from this interview, what would it be?
Get inside the game! Believe us; this expression will take on a whole new meaning when seeing the new iZ3D monitor in the market.
It seems that the momentum of the 3D industry is building up, and we will soon see the exciting developments in the industry from both the content and hardware developers.
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