Stereocard and Stereoviewer

Seeing in 3D

Many of us recall those old, red plastic 3D viewers from younger days. With each clunky click to rotate the wheel of images, we were transported to a far-off location, immersed in a photo of the place. But why was it so darn cool to use? Why are they still around today? And how exactly did it all work? Well to start, a little bit of mathematics, of course!
We see the world in three dimensions because most of us have two eyes spaced a particu  lar distance apart. This gives each eye a slightly different view of the world in front of us. The brain reconciles the difference between these slightly different views from each eye, and perceives that difference as depth. While this is just one of the ways we see and perceive depth (there are many more!), it’s also is the basic principle behind a popular type of 3D photograph. This idea and many others are explored in MOPA’s current exhibition which looks at the history, science and creative uses of 3D photography over its history.
Nowadays, it seems each month there is a new device, headset or app offering the ability to explore our world in 3D, augmenting our view with more information or immersing us in an exciting experience. And while a lot of the new technology in these devices (read: smartphone!) were unthinkable just thirty years ago, the fundamentals of 3D photography at their most basic (two images from slightly different angles presented side by side to recreate depth) are relatively unchanged from a 150 years ago, and it’s all thanks to a little bit of mathematics. Don’t believe us? Give it a try!


Click here for PDF and Discussion Worksheet: Making a StereoCard Lesson



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