A novel display that allows people to watch films in 3D without having to wear special glasses has been developed by an international research team.
Dubbed ‘Cinema 3D’, the device relies on a complex array of lenses and mirrors that could possibly create the 3D effect for every viewer in the cinema, regardless of where they are seated.
"Existing approaches to glasses-free 3D require screens whose resolution requirements are so enormous that they are completely impractical," said professor Wojciech Matusik, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the inventors of the new display.
"This is the first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3D on a large scale."
The team cooperated on the development with researchers from Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.
So far, the device is only the size of a paper pad and nowhere near market ready. However, the team believes the approach they have taken might be more suitable than other existing approaches.
Previous methods developed for glass-free 3D viewing either limit the available resolution or work only for a restricted set of viewing angles. Neither of that is suitable for a large cinema.
The MIT and Weizmann Institute teams realised that they could take advantage of the fact that - unlike TV viewers - the cinema audience usually sits still and doesn’t move around much.
The glass-free TV sets use a series of slits in front of the screen - the so-called parallax barrier - which allow every eye to see a different set of pixels to create the sense of depth. These parallax barriers only work at a consistent distance from the viewer.
The Cinema 3D device by the MIT and Weizmann team only displays the visual content in a narrow range of angles and replicates it to all seats in a theatre. It encoded multiple parallax barriers into one display, so that each viewer sees a parallax barrier tailored to their position.
That range of views is then replicated across the theatre by a series of mirrors and lenses within Cinema 3D's special optics system.
"It remains to be seen whether the approach is financially feasible enough to scale up to a full-blown theater," said Matusik. "But we are optimistic that this is an important next step in developing glasses-free 3D for large spaces like movie theatres and auditoriums."