3D technology can be traced all the way back to the beginning of photography. In 1844 David Brewster invented the Stereoscope. It was a new invention that could take photographic images in 3D. Later, Louis Jules Duboscq took that invention and improved on it. Louis took a picture of Queen Victoria using the improved technology and displayed it at the Great Exhibition in 1851. This picture became very well known throughout the world. Steroscopic cameras started to catch on and became fairly common for personal use by World War II.
In 1855 the Kinematascope, a stereo animation camera, was invented. It was able to create 3d motion pictures. In 1915 the first anaglyph movie was produced. Anaglyph technology used 3d glasses with 2 different color lenses that would direct an image to each eye. In 1890 William Friese-Greene, a British film pioneer, filed a patent for the 3D movie process. In 1922 the first public 3D movie, "The Power of Love", was displayed. In 1935 the first 3D Color movie was produced. The use of the technology would remain dormant for over a decade.
In the 1950s, 3D technology made a come back. During this era, TVs had become extremely popular and had started appearing in many households. In the 50s a number of 3D movies were being produced. In 1952 "Bwana Devil" by United Artists was shown across the United States. This was the first 3D movie of the 50s. The film was shot using a process called Natural Vision. This process was pitched to Hollywood studios but they all passed. A year later, in 1953, "House of Wax" was released in 3D. "Dial M for Murder" was originally planned to be released in 3D, but Alfred Hitchcock decided to release the movie in 2D to maximize profits. Not all movie theaters were equipped with the 3D technology. 3D films were also being developed outside of the United States. In 1947 The Soviet Union released their first full length 3D movie, "Robinson Crusoe".
In the 1960s a new technology called Space-Vision 3D was released. This technology took two images and printed them over each other on a single strip. Unlike previous 3D technologies, it required a single projector with a special lens. This new technology removed the need to use two cameras to display 3D movies. Two camera systems were difficult to use, because it required that the two cameras were perfectly synced. The first movie to use this technology was "The Bubble". The movie was panned by critics, but the 3D experience still brought huge audiences. It became a profitable movie, making the new technology ready for promotion to other studios.
In 1970, Allan Silliphant and Chris Condon developed Stereovision. This was a new 3D technology that put two images squeezed together side by side on a single strip of 35 mm film. This technology used a special anamorphic lens that would widen the picture using a series of polaroid filters. The first movie to be released in Stereovision was a softcore sex comedy called "The Stewardesses". The movie cost only $100,000 USD to make and it earned an amazing $27 million in North America.
In the early 1980s many movies were released in 3D using the same process as Space Vision. Some of the movies that were released were Amityville 3-D, Friday the 13th Part III, and Jaws 3-D. In the mid 1980s, IMAX began producing documentary films in 3D. IMAx's 3D technology emphasized mathmatical correctness and this eliminated the eye fatigue that was seen in previous 3D technologies. In 1986, Canada had developed the first 3D movie that used polarized glasses. It was called "Echos of the Sun" and was created for Expo 86.
During the 1990s, many films were released in IMAX 3D. The most successful IMAX 3D film released during this time was "Into the Deep". The first IMAX 3D fiction film, "Wings of Courage" was released in 1996.
During the 2000s, many big studio movies were released in 3D. In 2003, James Cameron released Ghosts of the Abyss. This was the first full length 3D IMAX feature film. This movie used the latest IMAX 3D technology called Reality Camera System. The technology used the latest HD video cameras and was developed by Vince Pace. This same technology was used in "Spy Kids 3D: Game over", "Aliens of the Deep", and "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D". In 2004 the first full length animated 3D movie was released. It was called "The Polar Express". This movie was so successful in 3D that it prompted a great interest in 3D animated films. The 3D version of the film earned 14x as much per screen as the 2D version. In 2005, The Mann's Chinese 6 theater in Hollywood became the first commercial movie theater to have the Digital 3D technology. In 2007 Scar 3D was released internationally and it was the first film to be filmed using a completely digital workflow.
In 2010 Sky UK made a big push towards 3D television. On January 1st, the first 3D channel began broadcasting in South Korea. The channel displays educational shows, animated shows, sporting events, documentaries and musical performances all in 3D, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
We should expect that the use of 3D technology will continue and expand in to the normal household. Most major electronics manufacturers are planning the release of their 3D television lines. As the technology ages, expect prices to go lower and lower, and as they prices drop, more and more people will purchase 3D television sets.