Researchers Have Developed Glasses-Free 3D Cinema

No one likes those clunky specs.

There’s nothing else quite like it. Neither virtual reality nor video gaming can match the sense of immersion of a 3D cinema experience. In fact, it’s only the clunky specs that remind you that you’re still watching a film.

But a team of researchers at MIT and Weizmann Institute of Science have now constructed a display that offers a 3D experience without the glasses.

The prototype harnesses a blend of lenses and mirrors to enable viewers to watch the film from any seat in the house.

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MIT professor Wojciech Matusik, a co-author on a related paper, said existing approaches to glasses-free 3D requires screen resolutions which are so high that they are impractical: “This is the first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3D on a large scale.”

Unfortunately, the Cinema 3D system isn’t ready for market just yet. The prototype has 50 sets of mirrors and lenses in an area the size of a pad of paper. But researchers say their system could usher in glasses-free 3D cinema in the future.

You can already experience 3D without glasses. 3D TVs, for example, rely on a series of slits called a parallax barrier in front of the screen, which displays a different section of pixels to each eye, creating a sense of depth.

However, because the slits have to be at a consistent distance from the viewers, it’s not an approach that is easily replicated in cinemas, where people view films from a range of positions.

A method that has been proved to work in cinemas involves projectors that cover the entire range of the audience, but such an approach tends to reduce image quality.

MIT’s latest offering resembles a 3D TV set on a large scale with a several parallax barriers encoded into the screen.

Gordon Wetzstein, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford who was not involved in the research, said: “With a 3-D TV, you have to account for people moving around to watch from different angles, which means that you have to divide up a limited number of pixels to be projected so that the viewer sees the image from wherever they are.

“The authors [of Cinema 3D] cleverly exploited the fact that theaters have a unique set-up in which every person sits in a more or less fixed position the whole time.”

The paper is set to be presented at the SIGGRAPH computer-graphics conference in California this week.


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