Popular Mechanics - August 1952






dates back to Waller's early days in his father's commercial-photography shop in New York City. "Even then," he says, "I had a hunch that three-dimensional photography was possible without stereoptic gadgets."

Later, as head of Paramount's trick-film department, Waller began to use wide-angle lenses for special effects. "I noticed that they produced a faint three-dimensional effect," he says, "and figured it was a clue." He began to study sight in people to find out why they saw the things they did. He hung flaps over the peak of a cap and experimented to see how far he could see to each side. It was quite a bit. He walked around with one eye patched to see if he still had vision in depth. He did.

"I learned," he reveals, "that sight depends on experience; the eye lens paints a crude picture on the retina and the brain fills in details that it knows from experience should be there."

Stereovision, Waller explains, is largely fiction. For most persons it exists in an area of only 1 1/2 degrees and for a distance of a mere 20 feet. One-eyed people, of course, have none. And yet they get what they think is three-dimensional sight. They drive cars and gauge distances as well as anyone. How? "By scores of visual clues that tell their brains what to see," Waller says. "One object overlays another and tells them it's nearer; moving objects increase and decrease in size, angle, parallax and a host of other things tip them off to what they should see."

Waller figured that if he could devise cameras and projectors to duplicate peripheral vision (the entire field of a pair of human eyes), the human brain would do the rest since most of the visual clues by which people place themselves and the objects around them in space would be there. Anyone looking at such a picture would feel he was standing in the middle of a real scene. He would be the camera.

The inventor's first attempts to make such a camera looked mighty odd. One had seven lenses. It took a wide picture, all right, but the projected image was distorted on a standard screen.

"Then," says the inventor, "a New York World's Fair exhibitor asked me to make him a projectedpicture display inside a sphere, just to be different. He barely mentioned it when I knew I had the answer to my environmental movies. I'd been using flat screens only because I was so accustomed to them. Obviously, a person sees a curved view in real life."



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