Those red and blue glasses you once wore to watch campy 3D movies may have life in them yet, as new Mac-friendly technologies transform the flat virtual world of the Web into a three-dimensional one.

Dynamic Digital Depth Inc.'s new OpticBoom 3D browser plug-in uses 3D glasses to turn Web-based QuickTime movies into three-dimensional ones. The glasses were first used in such 1950s monster-chiller-horror classics as "House of Wax."

The company demonstrated the tool - and an upcoming display technology that offers 3D without the glasses - at Spring Internet World in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

From flat to phat DDD's OpticBoom 3D plug-in software is available for free download at the company's Web site. An "extreme" version costs about US$30. In both cases, DDD sends you the 3D glasses when you register; however, the extreme version includes more-sophisticated shutter glasses.

"The shutter glasses opaque out each eye at a very high refresh rate so the two images appear as one in three dimensions," says Theresa Roth-Borunda, a spokesperson for DDD. "It offers better viewing than the red and blue glasses, which are dependent on colour to create 3D."

DDD's glasses-free display technology uses the same concept. A special optical wavelength filter applied to a traditional display controls the distribution of colour with each pixel, says Chris Yewdall, president and chief executive officer of DDD. "The display shows one image to the left eye and one to the right to create the 3D effect."

3D QT TV Although DDD doesn't expect consumer TVs using its 3D display technology to appear for about five years, the first commercial test display should debut in May, Roth-Borunda says.

The test displays will be about 50 inches and will be used for ads and music videos, she says. Unlike other 3D displays that force you to view from a certain spot to see the 3D image, this technology lets you view from multiple angles, so that more people can view it at once, she adds.

At the heart of DDD's OpticBoom software is its 2D to 3D conversion technology that creates a depth map to the image, Yewdall says. While previous technologies required conversion of each video frame from 2D to 3D, DDD's technology helps you to modify key frames, and then it calculates the 3D conversion for the rest, he says.

DDD is also planning to release a product called OpticBoom Photo sometime in the second quarter of this year, he adds.

This product converts still images to 3D using a simple light-to-dark greyscale that lets you select which objects appear in the foreground and background of the 3D image. As you select the objects, the software calculates a depth map of the image in real time, Yewdall says. DDD has not yet announced pricing on the software.

Mac system requirements To use DDD's OpticBoom 3D plug-in software, you’ll need at least a 300MHz Power Mac, 64MB RAM (preferably 128MB), Mac OS 8.5 or better, QuickTime 4.1.2 (allocate at least 8MB of memory to the QuickTime Player); Internet Explorer 4.0 or better, or Netscape Navigator/Communicator version 4.0 or better. You’ll also have to send off for OpticBOOM RedBlue Eyeware and/or OpticBOOM Extreme Eyeware.