If 3D TVs are the wave of the future, then you can be sure there are dozens of manufacturers and developers with one goal on their mind: Getting rid of those goofy glasses. They can be an uncomfortable nuisance – something you have to accept, rather than something you look forward to dealing with. In fact many might suggest that they are the dam holding back the 3D floodwaters, and whoever can be the first to solve the glasses issue, will be the frontrunner in the 3D TV market. There are a few different methods available to meet this goal of a glassless 3D world (also known as autostereoscopy), but none are without issues.
DigiTimes is reporting that Japanese manufacturer Newsight is taking a chance with glasses-less 3D screens, using a method called parallax barrier technology. The 70-inch set claims to be the largest 3D TV set in the world. Although the set does project 3D without glasses, other details – including price and release date haven’t been announced, so we don’t yet know what price range parallax technology will run.
A parallax barrier is a device that goes in front of an LCD screen. The device has a series of precisely placed slits that allow each eye to see a different set of pixels. This creates a sense of depth and allows the user to view 3D images without the glasses. The drawback to this type of technology is that the viewer must be positioned in a relatively specific spot. Sharp recently announced a mobile 3D touchscreen that uses the same parallax barrier technology, but it had no immediate plans for a larger model.
Other manufacturers are working on the same idea through different technology. The company Sunny Ocean is working on a screen that would use the same lens technology as the glasses, but the screen would render the images in 3D for you. This technology is promising, but it will only work with images that are broadcast in 3D, and you would need to remove the screen for standard 2D broadcasts.
The most common of the current autostereoscopic sets seems to be lenticular lens technology, favored by Chinese maker TCL, Samsung, NEC and Philips, all of which had displays at this year’s CES.
Lenticular lens technology uses multiple magnified lenses that create the illusion of depth. If you have ever seen a card that has a 3D image that morphs when you rotate it from side to side, you have seen lenticular lens printing. In television sets, projectors display images through eight or more lenses, although you only see a few at a time. The multiple lenses allow the viewer to see the image in 3D from multiple angles. Although still new, TCL has a working model on the market now, for a mere $20,000.
Until manufacturers can effectively produce high quality autostereoscopic televisions that are affordable (and give us 4K while you are at it), 3D TV with glasses may remain little more than a stopgap.