Is Glasses-Free 3D On The Horizon?

3D has been touted as the future of film, but many cinema lovers still aren’t buying it. A big factor keeping the technology from permeating the industry is the bulky glasses that audiences seem to find more of a hassle than they’re worth. But what if movies could be shown in 3D with no glasses required? Well, a group of South Korean researchers may have found a way to provide glasses-free 3D technology.

Their research has been published in Optics Express, which includes detailed descriptions and formulas required for the technology, as well as some pretty cool diagrams. For the benefit of those not as technologically inclined, Wired has provided an informative breakdown of the research.

Check it out:

The new method would allow movie theaters to keep their projectors where they’ve always been, behind the audience, and uses fairly simple optical technology. A special array sits in front of the projector and polarizes its light. A filter covering the screen then obscures different vertical regions of the screen, like the slats of venetian blinds. Each of your eyes, sitting at a slightly different angle, has some of the screen blocked and some of the screen visible. The movie has the right-eye and left-eye images interleaved in vertical columns with one another. The trick then is to have the light visible to your left eye contain the left-eye pixels and vice versa for the right eye.

Glasses-free 3D has been used already by products such as the Nintendo DS and various 3D phones, but Wired provided an explanation for why this current technology isn’t practical for a movie theater.

 There are some glasses-free methods around, where a special filter covering the screen sends some of the light to your right eye and some to your left, creating a 3-D image. This is the technology in Nintendo’s 3DS gaming system and several smart phone displays, such as the HTC Evo 3D. In a movie theater, this glasses-free 3-D technique would require the projector to sit behind the screen, but most theaters are not designed for this.

This research really is very interesting, but to be honest, I’m not sure that removing the glasses would fix the problems audiences have with 3D. I believe that if the technology and the quality were impressive enough, people wouldn’t have a problem wearing a whole head set. But as it is, many fans still want movies in the traditional form.

The problem may be that the current technology isn’t fully 3D, at least not the kind we get in our daily lives. When we look at the real world, objects change based on our perspective. At a different angle an object can look entirely different than it did before. That’s all obvious. Yet, with the current “3D” technology being used in the film industry, it’s really just images layered on top of each other.

You are provided with depth, but looking at the movie from below, or from the side, doesn’t provide any variation in appearance. If it was possible to portray movies closer to the way the real world looks, then maybe audiences would be more eager to give it a shot, but even that sounds more like hologram projection than an actual film, which people certainly wouldn’t be happy about.

Simply put, the technology just may not be there for the 3D that will get audiences excited. Glasses-free viewing is surely a step in the right direction, but it may not be big enough to win over moviegoers.

Do you agree with my opinions on 3D or am I just stuck in the past? Voice your thoughts in the comments section below.

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