Nice sleeping cat wearing 3D glasses

‘Home3D’ could enable 3D television without eyewear

Image credit: Dreamstime

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have been working on a system that converts 3D films into a format appropriate for a home television set, without the need for 3D glasses.

While a steady trickle of 3D films are being released at the cinema, 3D has failed to establish itself as a presence in people’s homes.

A range of television sets with 3D capabilities have been released on the market, including models from Panasonic, Samsung and LG. Due to a lack of broadcasting of 3D programmes and the necessity to wear 3D glasses, however, the two remaining 3D television manufacturers announced that they would end all 3D support in January 2017.

However, researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) hope that the drastic decline in popularity of 3D television could be reversed with their system which allows users to watch 3D films from the sofa, without the need to wear special glasses.

3D video is typically crafted using polarised light, or by projecting a pair of images – filmed with side-by-side cameras – which, when processed, create a sense of depth. In order to perceive this depth, however, the viewer is required to wear 3D glasses, containing different polarising filters.

The CSAIL system converts traditional 3D films into a format more appropriate for home television: a format compatible with automultiscopic displays. These displays allow multiple users to watch 3D content without the need for glasses.

The system, named Home3D, converts a 3D film from traditional ‘stereoscopic’ to multiview. Instead of displaying a pair of slightly different images, the screen will display three or more images that simulate how the depicted scene would appear when standing in different locations. Based on these images, the viewer is able to naturally perceive depth.

Last year, another group of researchers from MIT’s CSAIL demonstrated Cinema3D; an automultiscopic display for the cinema which allows an audience to watch a 3D film without specialised glasses.

“Automultiscopic displays aren’t as popular as they could be because they can’t actually play the stereo formats that traditional 3D movies use in theatres,” said Dr Petr Kellnhofer. “By converting existing 3D movies to this format, our system helps open the door to bringing 3D TVs into people’s homes.”

Existing techniques for converting 3D films into other formats exist, although they are limited by problems such as low-resolution images, or poor performance when left-eye and right-eye images are too different. The MIT researchers’ method produces high-resolution images with a larger left-eye to right-eye difference than has previously been attained.

The system is able to run in real-time on any graphics-processing unit, such as a PlayStation or Xbox, and in the future, the researchers suggest, Home3D could come in chip form. This would allow it to be inserted into ordinary televisions or media players.

“Glasses-free 3D TV is often considered a chicken-and-egg problem,” said Professor Gordon Wetzstein, a Stanford University electrical engineer who was not involved with the research. “Without the content, who needs good 3D TV display technology? Without the technology, who would produce high-quality content? This research partly solves the lack-of-content problem, which is really exciting.”

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