Research suggests glasses-free 3D videos could be coming soon to home TVs

mit csail glasses free 3d videos home3d display copy
Jason Dorfman / MIT CSAIL
Third-dimensional movies could soon be venturing outside the theaters — and ditching those red and blue paper glasses too. New research out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), published on July 12, devises a way to watch 3D movies at home, without the need for glasses. Called Home3D, the new platform converts existing stereoscopic 3D movies by using artificial intelligence, rather than using a new camera system for natively recording the content.

The 3D glasses correct a pair of offset, polarized images to create a sense of depth. Home 3D, however, uses what’s called an automultiscopic display. The display is actually three (or more) images, but those images are presented in a slightly offset way that looks different when the screen is viewed from different angles. That allows the brain to see a coherent image with depth information, creating a 3D effect without the glasses.

Automultiscopic displays have already allowed for glasses-free TVs. While the display type recently introduced is promising, it requires creating a 3D video using 30 different cameras. The unusual format creates a sort of chicken-and-egg problem: Producers aren’t going to create this 30-camera content when no consumers actually own a automultiscopic TV, but no consumers are actually going to buy a automultiscopic TV when there’s no content being produced for it. Companies like Toshiba already have glasses-free displays on the market, but they’ve failed to grow in popularity because of limited content.

What the latest MIT/CSAIL research does is to create a way to convert existing, glasses-required 3D content into the proper format for automultiscopic displays (the study is based off a similar work that focused on glasses-free viewing at movie theaters last year). By converting content that already exists into the new glasses-free format, automultiscopic TVs could actually wind up in homes since it only requires some software to convert content to the new format. That’s why when YouTube announced a new 180-degree format, they launched a way to view the content and, with manufacturing partners, a way to create the content at the same time.

“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 theaters,” said  Petr Kellnhofer, lead author on the Home3D research. “By converting existing 3D movies to this format, our system helps open the door to bringing 3D TVs into people’s homes.”

The MIT/CSAIL study isn’t the first to try computerized conversions to the new format, but reverses some of the current limitations. Phase-based rendering is a quick and accurate method for converting to the video type, but it can’t handle every type of 3D image. A technique called depth image-based rendering can handle those types of images, but is low-resolution and loses finer details like in transparent objects or motion blur.

The new software uses AI to mix the two conversion methods, creating a high-resolution 3D result without the glasses and without the limitations of earlier methods. The software can convert videos in real-time, running on a graphics processing unit (GPU), which means that the program could run off existing gaming devices like an Xbox or PlayStation, effectively mixing existing videos with existing hardware through software conversion. Future media players or smart automultiscopic TVs could integrate a GPU to enable the conversion as well, the research group says.

When Home3D-converted movies including The Avengers and Big Buck Bunny were presented to a study group, 60 percent of participants said the quality was better than existing 3D videos.

As we mentioned in our DT10 series on the future of the television, glasses-free 3D TVs will be a future technology manufacturers tap into, and this research backs up this trend. While the new method brings glasses-free home TVs closer to reality, the researchers say the current program does create some ghosting, or offset images, an issue the team plans to continue to refine through software.

Home Theater

Select YouTube TV subscribers are getting a summer of Showtime for free

If you're a long-time YouTube TV subscriber, you may be in luck: The service is giving free access to Showtime until September 5, 2019, according to reports. Unlike other free trials, it does not become a paid plan on expiry.
Movies & TV

Prime-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite TV series currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Home Theater

New TV? Here's where to go to watch the best 4K content available

Searching for content for your new 4K UHD TV? Look no further. We have every major source of the best 4K content, along with the cost, hardware requirements, and features that make each service worth a look.
Deals

Walmart deal drops this 50-inch Vizio 4K smart TV under $300

When 4K first came out back in 2016, there was no real reason to upgrade to a 4K TV. Why? Because: a) content was sparse; and b) the few 4K televisions on the market retailed for north of a thousand bucks. But oh, how times have changed.
Movies & TV

Will Smith’s best movies ranked, from Bad Boys to Ali to Hitch

A ranking of Hollywood actor Will Smith's best movies to date. From his early roles during the Fresh Prince days to his Oscar-baiting dramas, Smith has played all kinds of characters in a wide array of beloved films.
Deals

The best 4K smart TV deals for June 2019: Samsung, LG, and Vizio

A good 4K smart TV is the only way to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. If you're looking to take your home entertainment to the next level, then we've got the best 4K TV deals right here.
Home Theater

What is Dolby Atmos Music, and how can you experience it?

Dolby Atmos is a surround sound format that creates immersive, 3D soundtracks to make movies come alive. But the same technology is also being adopted for music creation, and it's a game-changer. Here's everything you need to know.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (June 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

Who needs sunshine? Stay inside and watch the best movies on Netflix instead

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Deals

Amazon drops prices on Bose and Plantronics wireless noise-canceling headphones

Earlier this week, Dell dropped the price of Bose's QuietComfort 35 II noise-canceling wireless headphones. Amazon has now matched Dell's price, dropping the price of its stock down to $299.
Movies & TV

Get your pulse racing with some of the best action movies currently on Netflix

In need of a movie that will really get your adrenaline pumping? Netflix offers a ton of films that fit the bill, along with a few you might want to avoid. Here, we rounded up the best action movies currently streaming on Netflix.
Movies & TV

Snuggle up with the best romance films currently streaming on Netflix

Looking for a story about love and lust? We've rounded up the most romantic films currently on Netflix, whether you're looking for a story about young love or a man who falls in love with artificial intelligence.
Movies & TV

The best movies streaming on Hulu right now (June 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!