Comments on Why We Make Art
3-D Displays and Spatial Interaction, Vol. 1 From Perception to Technology
by Barry G. Blundell
Walker & Wood Ltd., Auckland, NZ, 2011
391 pp. Paper £56.00
Reviewed by George Shortess
This is the first volume of a monumental work that crosses a number of disciplines as it provides the basis for understanding 3D displays. My perspective for this review is as a vision researcher who has done research on binocular systems and a visual artist who has been working with computer systems for many years.
The overall organization and approach to the material is excellent. After presenting a general overview of the topics to be covered, the author discusses the basic physics and physiology of the visual system. In a very helpful style that is carried throughout the book, he presents the essential information and then provides references for those readers interested in pursuing particular topics further. For example in Chapter 2, on visual perception, the author covers a great deal of background material, emphasizing those aspects that will be most relevant to his later discussion of 3D displays, while giving references for the reader who is interested in other aspects of perception or who may not have the necessary background.
The level of presentation, while giving some detailed and technical accounts, does not get lost in jargon. It is written in an intelligent and engaging style.
I also appreciate very much the author’s use of history. He points out and gives credit to early workers who, while they did not have the technology of today, understood and made use of the principles to create image-making devices that are the forerunners of some of today’s more advanced technological systems. A good example is in Chapter 7 when he discusses Pepper’s Ghost that made its first appearance as a theatrical device in the 1860’s. It involved using a large glass plate onto which ghostlike images were projected such that they appeared from the audience perspective to be on stage. Since they were images and not solid forms, they could be made to appear to pass through solid objects. More recent adaptation have used the same optical principles but with digital projection and with plastic film replacing the large breakable glass. This historical approach emphasizes the principle that science and technology are incremental and that to understand and to appreciate current technology we need to know its history. This also allows the book to remain a valuable resource, even as the field naturally moves ahead rapidly.
Anyone interested in gaining a firm understanding of the current practice of 3D display technology would find the book a great beginning. I highly recommend it.