A 3D Future Without Glasses

June 14th, 2010 by LG Blog UK

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There are several methods for bringing images into the third dimension. Of these, two offer the tantalizing prospect of 3D TV without the need of glasses. Parallax barrier images work by using binocular disparity, or the difference between what each eye sees, while holographic technology focuses on the location of the objects rather than the screen itself.

Illusions and Dividing Dimensions

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Though they differ in details, all 3D TV glasses work by projecting different images onto the left and right eye. Specifically, the TV shows two separate images, and the glasses filter them so that each eye sees only one, thus creating a single 3D image. Thanks to the glasses, this effect works from a range of viewing angles in front of the TV.

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By contrast, glasses-free 3D TVs project a different image directly to each eye to achieve the illusion of depth. Though this is already possible, it requires the viewer to remain at a single, fixed point to get the 3D effect. Because of this, glasses-free 3D technology has so far been successfully deployed only on smaller devices, such as mobile phones, or displays that are usually viewed from a smaller range of angles, such as computer monitors.

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Parallax or Lenticular?

Though several methods already exist for glasses-free 3D TV, parallax barrier technology and lenticular technology are the most common so far. With parallax barrier technology, the “filter” function of 3D glasses is replaced by a layer of material in front of the screen itself. Through a series of slits, the layer allows each eye to see a different set of pixels, thus creating the 3D effect. The parallax barrier only works if the viewer remains in the same spot, making it suitable for small display units but not so great for TVs. In addition, with parallax, the screen’s brightness suffers.

Lenticular technology is actually based on an old printing technique in which an image changed slightly depending on the angle it was viewed from (a simple example of this technique is on children’s rulers that are decorated with images that seem to move when the ruler is rotated back and forth). Lenticular technology works by arranging small lenses on the display and refracting the left and right images to send separate images to each side. On the plus side, lenticular displays have less reduction in brightness and a slightly wider range of viewing angles. Unfortunately, they are also very difficult to produce, and hence very expensive.

Integrated Images and Holographs

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One exciting new possibility for glasses-free 3D is integral imaging. Basically an expanded version of lenticular technology, integral imaging further decreases the size of lenticular lenses so they respond to one cell.

By offering a view from top and bottom, as well as from left to right, integral imaging delivers a more realistic 3D image. The technology is actually comparable to the eyes of a fly, which have thousands of ommatidium attached. As yet, however, this technology remains at the prototype level due to the difficulties of generating numerous views and the decrease in the overall contrast ratio.

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Even further into the future, holographic TV beckons. As seen in a slew of sci-fi films, holograms would offer not just an illusion of depth, but the real thing: miniaturized people replaying soccer games or scenes from movies right there in front of you. However, numerous technological challenges – including the need to improve laser efficiency, create a universal implementation system and secure the vast storage space needed to handle holographic content – ensure that holograms remain a good bit further away even than glasses-free 3D TV.

  • http://twitter.com/jeremybancroft Jeremy Bancroft

    i think this is being over complicated. It is possible to display a 2d image on a 2d screen and have it perceived as 3d to viewers, regardless of their viewing angle and of course, without those ugly glasses.

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  • Anonymous

    well its been a year since the first comments and technology has advanced somewhat, but we still aren’t there yet. The autostereoscopic TV still needs some tweaking but it does look very promising. Soon enough they’ll have it cracked and then 3D TV will really come into its own. Personally I cannot wait, the immersive experience of 3D really brings entertainment to a new level imo.

    Brian from http://3dtvs.org.uk

  • Anonymous

    Well, it’s a year since the first comments on here and now the technology has advanced somewhat, but it’s still not quite there yet. It still seems they haven’t managed to create a quality 3d experience and that standing at an angle will effectively ruin your viewing experience, as will standing at the wrong distance from the TV. I’m really excited about advancements and can’t wait until the autostereoscopic technology breaks through properly, it will truly be a revolution in the entertainment experience.

    Mr.TV at http://3dtvs.org.uk

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  • Hn_agrvl

    The possibility of affecting our eyes is quite high in using flickering glasses. It also affect our health due fix position while watching 3D, thus to avoid all these one should look for FPR 3D Glasses which is free from all these problems.

  • Draw_Skt

    I think you should consult with doc. however, Lg claims that their 3d tv glasses are are not effective to eyes and other parts of human body.

  • Bonikhanna

    one of my friend suggest me to purchase LG’s FPR glasses for light weight glass and there’s no angular distortion. I wanna buy LG’s 3d tv still I want a confirmation for my mom because she is suffering from glaucoma.guys is LG’s 3d tv will be best for my mom.

  • http://www.brackethub.co.uk Dean Bourne

    This is a great product for the business world but I am a bit sceptical about the real uses at home

  • Ken

    Apologies for possibly over-simplifying things but isn't it easier to film the source material using a specially developed camera layered with a lens array similar to that in Integral Imaging? However, in this array, the lenses are convex, perhaps best likened to hundreds of thousands of tiny 'bubbles' each capturing a number of slightly different angles of the source material. Viewed back on a convential TV screen, this would look like a disorientating mess, but played back through a TV screen 'coated' with exacting lenses akin to the type originally filmed through, the original image is restored. Because each tiny 'bubble' on the TV screen is showing a slightly different image (and because each bubble is so small that a viewer would need a magnifying glass to single out a cluster of them), each eye sees a slightly different image and whether viewed from the left, right, directly in front, or at a higher or lower angle, the result is a comfortable 3D image without the transitional blur of lenticular or parallax technology. As it says in the article, 'just like a fly', but without the difficulty in generating multiple views because the tiny convex lenses will do this without a need for processing power. The main brunt of the processing will be used for storing the 'flattened' 3D image from the camera, which surely isn't much of a problem.

  • http://www.3dtvreviewer.co.uk/ 3DGizmo

    So, auto-stereoscopic displays have very few “sweet spots” where 3D works, and, if I understand it correctly, the 3D mode can't be turned off because it's caused by a special screen which is part of the TV.

    I really don't think that will work for a home TV in a living room. At least with the glasses you can wear them for a special event (movie, sports, games) and then watch Eastenders without glasses on the same TV.

    No-one wants 3D forced on them… which glasses-free 3DTV's will do.


  • Denis Roy

    the pleasure of watching a movie with a grouop of viewers will be compromised until the holographic process will be ready, but then, the cinematographic rules will again need to be re-written to accomodate that experience closer to the traditionnal theater.