Glasses Free 3D TV Technology is Here! Watch 3D TV without 3D glasses -coming soon
by Robert Wiley, editor
Here's how the new 3D TV viewing with no glasses works: Three dimensional depth perception is an mind trick played by the eyes. We trick our eyes into believing that images are 3 dimensional by creating and displaying 2 images which are slightly offset and using typically active shutter glasses to rapidly alternate the opening and closing of the lens to open and block the image displayed. With no glasses the 2 offset images are necessarily much closer together, so there is not quite as much work to be done by our minds eye in forming the 3D image. Another difference is the screen resolution of the TV showing glasses free 3D. The resolution is much higher than normal 1080p (1920 X 1080) HD requirements, in fact it needs to currently be 4 times the normal HD resolution (at least for larger screen sizes). This is being dubbed a 4K panel which means 4000 progressive lines of resolution or a vertical and horizontal breakdown of around 7,000 X 4,200 resolution. That's a staggering number of pixels. Anyway, the higher pixel resolution will need some powerful upconversion processing to show lowly 480p image from Netflix or normal broadcast programming. But this is possible.
3D without glasses works by displaying 2 shots of the images from slightly differant angles at the same time on the screen. On the front of the panel is a filter which separates the two images and displays them at slight angles. Think of it like an uppercase V, with the TV screen at the bottom and your eyes at the top of the V. When you are in this "sweet spot" each of your eyes is receiving a separate image and the 3D effect is created. If you move your eyes out of this sweet spot the 3D effect breaks and you will experience crosstalk (blurry edges on the objects on screen) or no 3D image at all. For this technology to work you must be in a very specific area at a specific distance in front of the screen. Microsoft and others are working on technology that combines a dynamic filter on the screen, a camera on the TV and face recognition or eye tracking software. While you are looking at the TV, the TV is looking at you and constantly adjusting the filter to maintain the sweet spot where your eyes are. At the time of this writing Microsoft's Applied Sciences Division has managed to prototype a 3D display that can track and display glasses-free 3D to 4 different people at the same time. Nintendo is also using similar techonolgy on their upcoming handheld gaming device, the 3DS.
Recently at the CES show 2011 in Las Vegas we were surprised that 3 different 3D TV manufacturers had glasses free 3D displays as prominent features in their show booths. Sony showed an incredible glasses free 3D OLED TV which we named best TV of the entire show. The 3D display was crisp and colorful and make you want one of these sleep OLED TVs (albeit not considering the price). I would describe the picture as stunning but much of that can be attributed to the dense pixel resolution of these OLED TVs. It was by far the best 3D picture we saw – even it it was just a prototype and not currently shipping. The other Sony standout was a 56" 3D model which was also based on a 4K resolution LED backlit LCD panel. It was the best looking glasses free 3D image we viewed among the larger TVs. There is no ship date on this prototype either.
Toshiba got the award for biggest surprise display at CES with their glasses free 3D TVs of varying sizes and with alternate programming. They took the biggest chance. While the picture was not as good, it was certainly presentable and representatives from Toshiba informed us that these glasses free models could ship as early as late 2011. The 3D presentation was displayed on 4 sizes 24", 32", 55", and 65" TVs. Toshiba provided foot placements from a specific distance and basically dead straight on to view the 3D glasses free demos. The distance from the TV matters as well as center viewing. The quality was spotty and there was certainly plenty of visible 3D crosstalk (blurring) the further the viewer strayed from center view. As well, it doesnt take much movement to lose the 3D image altogether as the technology stands right now. When the 3D effect is working, it is a more subdued 3D depth dimension than the active shutter or even passive 3D glasses effect – no doubt due to the 2 images being displayed closely together. But Toshiba proved the technology is on the way and can be produced and the company is serious about it. For a first shot it wasnt bad, and this is how new technologies get developed. This will certainly raise the awareness and R&D spending from the other TV manufacturers as well.
LG showed an edge lit 55" LED 3D TV without the glasses. Of course this was also a prototype television. Distance of 12 feet or so and dead straight viewing from center is also necessary. This TV looked decidedly better than the Toshiba demos but not as good as a couple of the Sony products.
There are many consumers and video aficionados out there that have been skeptics of 3D TV all along – primarily due to the glasses. "Who wants to wear the 3D glasses in their living room?" they logically query. "What am I going to do if we dont have enough glasses with someone visiting?" another good question. Our take is that glasses-free 3D would be extremely welcome and put 3D on much sounder footing with the consumer, but the technology certainly has a few hiccups to overcome before that reality. At least it gives all those R&D guys at the major TV manufacturers something to pursue.