The History of 3D Technology, from the Stereoscope to the Viewmaster


By Katie

When you hear the words “3D technology,” what probably pops to mind first are VR headsets, the special glasses you get at some IMAX screenings, and the polygonal graphics of your favorite video games. But the legacy of this tech actually goes back quite a bit further than you might think. What follows is a brief history of the process of bringing flat images into three living, breathing dimensions.

Merry Old England

The first instances of 3D technology go back to the Stereoscope, a device that arranged two copies of the same image at slightly different perspectives to create the illusion of a 3D view. This device was in development as early as 1839, shortly before the advent of photography, and by 1851, 3D pictures of Queen Elizabeth were available for public viewing at the Great Exhibition! For even longer than photographic rendered images of people have existed, inventors have been trying to bring 2D images into the 3D realm.

The Rise of Motion Pictures

During the 20th century, movies took world culture by storm, and of course, 3D innovators were itching to capitalize on this. While 3D movies are now standard fare that one expects with the purchase of an IMAX ticket, 3D movie glasses were actually invented all the way back in 1915. But the concept didn’t catch on in a major way until pulpy sci-fi and horror B-movies started using 3D vision as a novelty during the 1950s and 1960s. From a neat invention, to a gimmick tacked on to schlocky movies, to something that’s now standard with nearly every film, 3D technology has certainly come a long way in the world of movies…although there are some movies you might not want to see in 3D if you suffer from claustrophobia.

3D In Your Home


3D isn’t something you have to go to a fancy exhibit or shell out for a ticket to your local theater to experience anymore. 3D televisions are a standard part of a lot of people’s homes. Augmented reality is commonplace on smartphones. VR headsets for gaming and movie watching are gaining more traction by the day. Even outside of the world of viewing technology there are 3D glasses you can use to experience the magic of the sun right from your own backyard. There are as many uses for 3D technology as there are people that can use it, and the possibilities are literally limitless.

Where Do We Go from Here?

You’ve probably heard of 3D printing, and by many expert’s estimations it’s only going to become a more important part of daily life as time goes on. It’s also very likely that we’re going to see the rise of more affordable VR headsets in the near future, meaning that 3D gaming and viewership isn’t going to be an activity that’s only for those with lots of money to spend. But aside from that, the future of 3D technology is wide open, and anyone can cast their lot in and make the next big innovation…including you! With the right tools at your disposal, anyone can make 3D art, whether it’s on your screen or in your hands. You can even teach in a whole new dimension.

Make Yourself Heard

What do you think about 3D technology: what’s your favorite use of it, and what would you like to see more of in the future? Let us know in the comments below, or submit an article on your own if you’d like to really let loose on the topic! Homeschooling Teen is where you get to make yourself heard like nowhere else, and we can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

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