An international team of researchers has come up with an innovative display technology that could soon allow film-goers to watch 3D movies without having to use the related headset. Developed by scientists from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), in collaboration with Israel-based Weizmann Institute of Science, the prototype display relies on a combination of lenses and mirrors for an excellent 3D viewing experience anywhere in the movie theater.
Currently-available autostereoscopic displays (basically, glass-free 3D) use screens with incredibly high resolution requirements, meaning that they are usually not feasible for big-screen viewing. According to Wojciech Matusik, a professor at MIT and the study’s co-author, the new technology is quite possibly the “first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3D on a large scale”.
In case of television, similar 3D technologies allow viewers to observe varying sets of pixels, thereby creating an illusion of depth. Central to the 3D technology is what is known as the parallax barrier, which needs to be at a consistent distance with respect to the viewer’s position. When it comes to the movie theater, however, the spectators are seated at several different distances and angles.
For the research, therefore, the team had to develop entirely new, physical projectors that together cover the entire theater. Referred to as the Cinema 3D, the newly-built system integrates a number of parallax barriers in one display. This, the scientists point out, creates specific parallax barriers for each individual viewer, irrespective of his or her position from the screen.
Using a set of mirrors and lenses, the system then reproduces the range of views across the entire movie theater. While it is not yet commercially available, the technology could soon allow moviegoers to enjoy big-screen glass-free 3D viewing experience. Speaking about the research, Matusik explained:
It remains to be seen whether the approach is financially feasible enough to scale up to a full-blown theater. But we are optimistic that this is an important next step in developing glasses-free 3D for large spaces like movie theatres and auditoriums.