Kenneth Dunkley pioneered 3D viewing glasses that are now a $15 billion market

BY Preta Peace Namasaba January 12, 2024 1:45 PM EDT
Kenneth Dunkley invented 3D viewing glasses. Photo credit: Famous Black Inventors

Kenneth Dunkley, a pioneer in holographic and visual effects, is the inventor of three-dimensional viewing glasses. On a practical level, his innovative research on human vision transformed how we consume cinema.

Three-dimensional viewing glasses have become an alienable part of the cinema experience globally. In recent years, many domestic appliances such as laptops and TVs are also being made to require 3d glasses. As a result, the market for the glasses currently stands at about $15 billion.

Dunkley was born in New York in the year that World War II began and that was certainly a time when his innovation seemed most unlikely. But as a child, he built and played with model airplanes and enjoyed holography.

He attended community college and was once on the verge of dropping out due to poor grades. He ultimately pulled up his grades and was able to graduate. Dunkley also studied Physics at New York University, a field of study which he mastered.

His background in nanotechnology propelled him to become a Microsoft and robotics applications trainer. He was a specialist in computers and data communications, electro-optics, lasers, spectroscopy and holography and taught college level science and physics. Dunkley managed the home sales office of Princeton Applied Research Corporation and Princeton Instruments. He also directed Pennsylvania state technology contracts and proposals.

While researching human vision, Dunkley discovered that a unique visual effect was created by blocking two points in a human’s peripheral vision. This process transformed two-dimensional visuals into three-dimensional space. Dunkley therefore invented the three-dimensional viewing glasses that display 3-D effects from a flat two-dimensional photo without using any type of lens or mirror. In 1986, Dunkley filed his patent for Three-Dimensional Viewing glasses or 3-DVG. His innovation has made cinema a more immersive experience for viewers.

Below is what Dunkley’s patent states:

The present invention relates to devices for viewing two dimensional photographs or images (such as TV or movies) which then appear to the viewer as three-dimensional. The major difference between the present invention and the approaches and devices of the prior art is that the present invention accomplishes surprising and unexpected results without the use of mirrors, lenses, or other optics.

A visual pioneer in the field of holography, Dunkley has conducted various visual experiments at the Museum of Scientific Discovery in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He is renowned for creating Thoughts in 1973 and it is the first recorded example of independent “serially connected” visual spaces.

Thoughts is recognized as the first art hologram to fully utilize the holographic medium and has been credited as one of “the pivotal holograms in the development of holography as an art form.”

Dunkley is the president of Holospace Laboratories Inc. in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. His work is displayed at the Holocenter Summer Museum.