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Wearing unsightly 3D glasses at the movies may become a thing of the past

Your days of donning a pair of unsightly 3D glasses at the movies may one day be behind you, so prepare for a time when you can take all your dates to the theater while looking your absolute best. Thanks to the bright minds at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and their collaboration with Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, we’re closer than ever to display technology that allows movie fans to watch 3D movies without any additional hardware.

Known as “Cinema 3D,” the tech works by encoding “multiple parallax barriers in one display, such that each viewer sees a parallax barrier tailored to their position. That range of views is then replicated across the theater by a series of mirrors and lenses within Cinema 3D’s special optics system.” This solution, the team notes, solves the two main problems with glasses-free 3D viewing on a large scale: the “unavoidable tradeoff between the range of angular images supported by the display and its spatial or angular resolutions,” and the fact that “parallax is usually observed only when a viewer is positioned at a limited range of distances from the screen.”

Currently, the working prototype of the screen isn’t nearly large enough for an actual theater experience, as it’s only a bit bigger than a sheet of paper. Fifty lens and mirror combinations are used to achieve its 3D effect, and while it works, it’s still a ways away from being broadly implemented in a theater near you. That said, it’s now conceivable that one day in the (hopefully, near) future, your 3D experience will be glasses-free. Who knows — maybe you’ll even be able to install a home theater system with Cinema 3D.