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Ask a 3D Pro: Can I watch 3D with no glasses?

Question: I'm interested in 3D, but I wear big glasses already and have difficulty fitting 3D glasses over them. Is there a way to watch 3D with no glasses? - Jerry A.

Answer: What you're talking about is essentially the holy grail of 3D technology. Best of all, the technologies available today that do allow you to see 3D images without the use of 3D glasses. The problem is that auto-stereoscopic 3D technologies (the big word for "3D without glasses) have some problems that make it less than ideal for large screen solutions. 

To understand the issue at hand, it's important to know a few things about humans and vision. In order for us to see in three dimensions, our eyeballs need to see two different images. In our everyday lives, the gap between our eyes allows each eye to see something from a slightly different angle. Our brain does the rest.

Therin lies the problem. With both eyeballs staring a the same screen, how do we make them see different things?

The easiest solution, of course, is glasses. In the case of active shutter glasses, each eye is physically blocked from seeing the screen in rapid succession. In the case of polarized systems, two images are superimposed on a screen through different polarizing filters. The glasses then sort have their own filters which makes sure each eye sees the right image. In these systems, it doesn't really matter where you sit or how many people are watching. If you've got the right glasses, you're good.

In order to do a 3D display without glasses, you have to use a lenticular lens or parallax barrier, which essentially lets a person see two different images at the same time (usually with a resolution hit). The problem, however, is that in order for the effect to work, you have to be sitting in one of the predetermined "zones." In other words, you arrange your living room based on the TV manual, not the other way around. They can build these sets to accommodate several seating positions, but it's still not that convenient.

There are also head tracking technologies that move the screen to accommodate your eyeballs if you move, but these are only good for single users (meaning you're watching TV alone).

There's no doubt autostereoscopic displays will continue to be improved to the point it will make sense for your next living room TV, with higher resolution and more seating "zones". However, it could be years before they're truly ready for prime time. Until then, expect to see auto-stereoscopic displays relegated to the small screen, personal devices like portable game systems (like Nintendo's 3DS), phones, and portable Blu-Ray players. They make a lot of sense here, because these devices are primarily used by one person at a time, and they're almost always sitting right in front of it.

[Image source: Sid.org]

Read More In: Televisions

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Tags : 3d tvauto-stereoscopicautostereoscopyglasses freelenticular lensparallax barrier

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November 19, 2010 8:39 AM

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