You’ve probably stumbled on different news regarding Microsoft’s upcoming operating system, currently know under the name Windows 8, that also mention stereoscopic 3D support as one of the new features in it. This is certainly a good news for the whole stereo 3D community, but you should be aware of what exactly does Microsoft mean by adding Stereoscopic 3D support in their new operating system as it is not exactly what everyone had hoped for. Nevertheless since Microsoft recognizes the need of implementing stereoscopic 3D support as a feature in their new operating system it should sooner or later develop in a full-blown standard for generating and displaying visual information properly on 3D-capable displays. And in the upcoming Windows 8 OS it will kind of happen with DirectX 11.1 and new video driver architecture WDDM 1.2, although is it just marking the start for what is yet to come, as initially the stereoscopic 3D support will be somewhat limited to recognizing a 3D-capable display and outputting 3D content to it (with the help of the video drivers). This however is something that AMD, Intel and Nvidia already support in their current video drivers, but each of them uses their own implementation and this means that the application code required to add support for 3D with all of them gets more complex and needs more time to be made. So the developer of a stereoscopic 3D capable application or a game would be able to more easily implement stereoscopic 3D support in Windows 8, and saving time and costs associated with programming can actually help in the faster adoption of stereoscopic 3D support…
According to Microsoft:
Windows 8 provides the ideal platform for further innovations for partners to deliver a solid media experience. Windows 8 enables a rich graphical composition model that allows for more flexibility to support video playback and stereoscopic 3D scenarios. Windows 8 will provide a consistent API and DDI platform for Stereoscopic 3D scenarios such as gaming and video playback.
Stereoscopic 3D will be enabled only on systems that have all the components that are stereoscopic 3D capable. These include 3D-capable display hardware, graphics hardware, peripherals, and software applications. The Stereo design in the graphics stack is such that the particular visualization or display technology used is agnostic to the operating system. The Graphics driver talks to the Display and has knowledge about the display capabilities through the standardized EDID structure. The driver will enumerate Stereo capabilities only when it recognizes such a display connected to the system.
According to Microsoft the stereo 3D functionality can be enabled only on DirectX 10-capable hardware and higher, but that should not mean that if your video card is DX10-capable you will not be able to play games in stereo 3D mode if they use DX9. The improvements for stereoscopic 3D video content playback relates to the new D3D11 API for Stereoscopic 3D video that unpacks stereo frames into left- and right-eye images, that is if your video player application uses D3D11 API calls for the playback of 3D video.
So what does the stereoscopic 3D support for Windows 8 mean? It means that if you have a game with native stereoscopic 3D support you should be able to easily make the output compatible with different 3D solutions by using the S3D support in the OS (no matter what is the video card in your system) and not by talking to each of the video drivers in a specific way depending on what your video card is. If your game does not support stereo 3D in its engine, then you’d still have to use an additional software to convert it in stereo 3D format such as 3D Vision or iZ3D or TriDef 3D that are already available. These solutions of course would need to be updated to support the new stereoscopic 3D features when Windows 8 becomes available, but it will also make it easier for their developers to implement generic stereo 3D output if they decide to rely on the new features and not continue to use their workaround solutions. So the situation in terms of stereo 3D support wouldn’t actually change that much with just the release of Windows 8, but as I’ve already said it is a step in the right direction.