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June 2004 Issue

Vol. 2, No. 6

3-D Review is your headquarters for information about new stereoscopic products from around the world.

3-D Review does not sell any of the products featured on our Web pages. You can order directly from the vendors using the links or addresses provided.

Experiencing Star Trek Borg Invasion 4D
Special report by Van Beydler

"Along with several other excited travellers, I stepped into the medical space station and was greeted by a Starfleet officer. The crewman told us that the doctor would be with us shortly. A viewscreen gave us our first contact with the doctor, but this was no ordinary doctor. This was the famous holographic doctor from the Starship Voyager, which recently returned the Earth after being lost in the Delta Quadrant.

The doctor told us we were among a select group that had been brought to the station for an experiment. Some of us had the genetic makeup to resist being assimilated by The Borg, the cybernetic colony taking inhabitants against their will from planets across the universe. This medical technology might be shared with other members of The Federation if the doctor could only find the reason why we were immune to assimilation. Of course, The Borg would do anything to stop this from happening.

The doctor started to muse about his grand plan when the station suddenly started to vibrate. The viewscreen flickered in and out, static flashing across his image. Through the flickering image on the viewscreen, we all saw why. A Borg cube slowly was making its way toward the station.

The Borg vessel opened fire and tore a huge section from the station. The entire floor shook violently and the lights went out. For a moment, everything was silent. Then, we heard the chilling words coming from all around us, "We are The Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."

The doctor ordered the crewman to escort us to a waiting shuttle, which would be used to try to escape from the station. We made our way into a darkened corridor and were amazed to see how much destruction the Borg ship had caused. Debris littered the hallway, power lines hung from the ceiling with sparks flying to the sound of crackling electricity. Another crewman was working frantically at a console. Suddenly, a Borg drone came around the corner. We were face to face with the most dangerous alien species ever encountered."

This is just the exciting beginning of the adventure you'll find at Star Trek Borg Invasion 4D. I was able to attend this special attraction located inside the Las Vegas Hilton. If you're a science fiction fan, you'll enjoy it from the moment you enter the Star Trek area of the casino.

Huge models of some of the most famous Star Trek starships hang from the ceiling. A museum of actual artifacts from every Star Trek series is on display, from original 1966 props to items used in the Star Trek movies.

The highlight of your trip will be the combination of the original Star Trek Klingon Experience along with the newly opened Star Trek Borg Invasion 4D live action adventure and 3-D movie. I won't spoil any surprises except to say that by the time you get to the shuttle you get to don the "protective goggles" for your voyage (the protective goggles are the 3-D glasses).

I would like to express special thanks to Elizabeth Williams, VP of Strategic Marketing for Paramount Parks. Elizabeth allowed me unique access to Star Trek Borg Invasion 4D, which included the first 3-D photos taken behind the scenes of the attraction.

View-Master® Star Trek 1970s Advertisement

Star Trek View-Master® adThis ad promoting the Star Trek View-Master® packets available at that time was featured in The Monster Times, a horror fan magazine published in the early 1970s. This was several years before the Star Trek movies and spinoff TV series. The Star Trek View-Master® packets included the "Omega Glory" live action packet and "Mr. Spock's Time Trek" animated cartoon packet.

The magazine sold both packets for $4, postage included! The ad mentions a "Star Trek Stereo Viewer." This was probably just a description used by the magazine to help promote sales of the reels and viewers. The ad promoted a viewer that "magnified photos a full five times through special precision lenses."

Kid Stuff: Great Toys from Our Childhood Features View-Master® in Museum Display

Kidstuff logoView-Master® is among the toys featured in "Kid Stuff: Great Toys From Our Childhood," a new hands-on exhibition at Science Museum of Virginia, that lets museumgoers rediscover baby-boom-era toys in exhibits like the View-Master® Theater and Etch-A-Sketch Art Show and learn the stories behind the development of favorite playthings. The exhibit remains on view 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 6 at the museum, 2500 W. Broad St. Admission is $7.50 to $8.

Bringing the Martian Landscape to the Silver Screen

Northwestern University seal.A bowl of blueberries by the thousands, a rock called "Lion Stone," dunes of red sand, the shoreline of a salty sea, wind-sculpted volcanic rock -- all of these features of the Martian landscape come to three-dimensional life for faculty and students when they don their 3-D glasses and step into the Visualization Laboratory at Northwestern University.

Northwestern is believed to be the only university in the country offering its faculty and students the opportunity to view 3-D images of the red planet from NASA's two Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), Spirit and Opportunity, as a component to enhance the classroom experience and for research purposes.

Suzan van der Lee, assistant professor of geological sciences, used the Mars images in her Exploration of the Solar System class to discuss the question of whether or not there was water on the rocky planet.

"Everyone had the funny glasses on in the lab, and we were able to view the same images used by NASA scientists to conclude that there was a shallow, salty sea on the surface of Mars," said van der Lee, who brought 50 undergraduate students to the Vislab in small groups during the winter quarter. "The students were very excited and thought the experience was cool. The 3-D images make Mars more real."

Scientists from Northwestern, the University of Chicago and the Adler Planetarium are bringing these images to the silver screen by taking raw data transmitted daily from the rovers, and, using involved computer programming and processing, turning black-and-white images into full-color 3-D images for academic use.

Northwestern astronomy and geology students, classes visiting from other schools, including Evanston's Roycemore School, and participants in this year's Take Your Daughter to Work Day at Northwestern have all been wowed by the spectacular images. (The 3-D images are also available to visitors to the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum.)

When NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) launched the rovers last summer, NASA recognized there would be great public interest in the mission. JPL gathered together more than 70 museums and planetariums and formed the Mars Visualization Alliance. The alliance is key in the dissemination of images from the MER mission and in explaining and presenting results of the mission to the public for educational purposes.

"Mars is not that different from an arid place here on Earth, and we can show that to people with these marvelous stereo images," said Douglas Roberts, manager of the Visualization Lab (Vislab) for information technology at Northwestern and an astronomer with the Adler Planetarium. "Most other members of the alliance are using non-stereo images prepared by NASA for the press because they don't have the time to create or the technology to project stereo images."

Roberts arranged for Northwestern to share Mars rover images with the Adler by way of the Visualization Lab and took on the labor-intensive task of manipulating the raw images into a viewable format. Each week Roberts and his colleagues receive data for about 200 images and typically make 50 stereo pictures a week, some in color. (The long-term plan is to create a Web-based library of materials -- of the Mars images and other work with which the Vislab is involved -- to share with other universities.)

As Roberts explains it, the Mars rovers are equipped with camera "eyes" and other sensors that feed them information about their environment. Two panoramic cameras (Pancams) on each rover image the Martian surface and sky. The Pancam Mast Assembly allows the cameras to rotate a full 360 degrees to obtain a panoramic view of the Martian landscape.

The range of filters on the Pancam detectors allows them to take multispectral images (images taken at various wavelengths). Using a "color wheel" with various filters, the two panoramic cameras create stereoscopic images that are later combined to produce 3-D data. Two navigation cameras (Navcams) mounted on each rover's "neck and head" also gather panoramic, 3-D imagery, primarily used to navigate the rover on Mars.

The rovers transmit images to radio telescopes in California, Spain and Australia. Image data is loaded into a database and searched for pairs of images with enough color components for a color stereo pair. Stereo visualization, also known as 3-D visualization or stereoscopy, is based on delivering slightly different images to the left and right eyes. The images appear to have depth as they are projected on a special screen.

Turning raw images into viewable images requires computer programming, plus a geowall system -- a combination of stacked projection technology using polarizing filters/glasses, fast graphics cards and inexpensive PCs which makes it possible to visualize images in stereo and to aid in the understanding of spatial relationships.

Roberts built a computer to display the Mars images and used some moderately priced software for image cropping and alignments. He then mirrored the Adler database and housed it on two servers at Northwestern. The geowall system, which was already in place, consists of a computer containing a graphic card with two video outputs. The computer runs programs such as Pokescope, a stereo program for aligning and viewing stereo photographs, and Wallview, a stereo pair viewer used for very large images.

Stereo images taken through different color filters are combined with Adobe Photoshop (graphics manipulation software) to create stereo color images. NASA scientists often take several overlapping pictures of a large area; these images must be "stitched together" and cropped to form the panoramic images and to fill in any gaps.

Two stacked portable projectors with polarizing filters on their lenses send the images to a silver screen, so called because of the metallic substance on the screen to preserve polarization. Finally (and probably most fun) are the 3-D glasses worn by visitors to the lab, similar to those used at Disneyland or IMAX theaters.

Once he had stereo images that were ready for viewing, Roberts contacted Northwestern's astronomy and geology departments to see if there was interest in using the technology in classes. Not surprisingly, both departments were eager to use the Vislab to supplement their curricula.

Northwestern will have access to the Mars images until the mission ends (currently expected sometime this fall). Roberts is working on stereo images that will be used for future Northwestern classes and as well as disseminated to other universities. As long as there is continued interest in using the images to enhance the classroom experience, the Vislab will continue to offer them.

The Mars expedition also creates enormous opportunities for Northwestern to "take the show on the road." Roberts and Mark Robinson, research associate professor of geological sciences and director of Northwestern's Center of Planetary Sciences, have given a number of presentations at the Adler Planetarium in an effort to do additional outreach and bring Mars even closer to home.

As time-consuming as the Mars project is, there are other projects going on in the Vislab. Work is under way on the 3-D visualization of solid objects such as the Eros 433 asteroid that was visited by the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) Shoemaker spacecraft, which sent back images and information about the asteroid for a year. (Eros is an S-class asteroid which means it much larger than a typical asteroid.) Robinson was a project scientist on the imaging team for the NEAR mission.

Work also is being done with Frederic Rasio, associate professor of physics and astronomy, on the visualization of 3-D calculations of dense star clusters and galactic centers.

Starlight Express will shine in 3-D

Starlight Express logoThe smash hit musical Starlight Express will be unveiling a new look when its first United Kingdom tour premieres in Manchester this autumn. For the launch will be the first time anyone in the UK will see the musical complete with a new 3-D film. It's time to don polarized 3-D glasses, if you really want to be part of the action.

The new film is the brainstorm of designer John Napier, who devised the ground-breaking set for the original production, in 1984. It was the only way he could think of to bring the action-packed show to life again, without building a train track right through the middle of the audience!

For the uninitiated, the original West End version saw actors on rollerskates racing around the stalls and past the audience's heads on a specially-constructed track. However, it proved to be a tad too tricky to reconstruct in every theatre on tour.

So, instead, John's son, movie-maker Julian, has created a 3-D film of the race, to be shown alongside the live action on stage, which will make the "trains" appear to drive straight into the audience. If the thought of sporting a pair of those specs conjures up visions of 1950s-style drive-in movies, fear not. This production is far from old-fashioned. It is being plugged as the musical for the MTV generation, with a series of revamped hip hop song and dance routines.

"It's the challenge of all time to take this around the country," said tour producer David Ian. "Starlight ran for 18 years in London, where it was, literally, cemented into the ground. It took six months to get all the track out of the theatre! I have to set it up in Manchester in just six days, which is where the 3-D film comes in. I think it is going to be every bit as good as the original, but different."

"Because 3-D originated back in the fifties, it might be seen as quite quaint, but we are much more like the movie Matrix Reloaded in the technology we have used."

Starlight Express is the world's second longest-running musical.

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