That being the case, the debate over 3D’s relative strengths and weaknesses might be put to a more worthwhile purpose than simply justifying or condemning its ongoing use. The development of parallax barrier technology is just one possible avenue to a more fulfilling 3D experience, a future it will realise by removing the need for pesky glasses.
With each cinema chain finding their own way of taxing the medium, and 3D glasses often touted as the reason for such additional charges, 3D has become a strain in these credit crunching times. With a ticket to last month’s Saw 3D costing cinema-goers approximately £10, one possible way of reducing the cost of admission is to drive the expensive glasses into extinction.
At home, the accessories are more of a nuisance than an expense. Not only do they detract from the viewing experience and hide the rest of your household behind tinted lenses, they can threaten the enjoyment of home-entertainment on account of something as trivial as a simple smudge.
With the news that Nintendo are releasing a 3DS, and that both Toshiba and Hitachi are developing parallax barrier fitted televisions, heralding the prompt arrival of glasses-free 3D, James Cameron is nevertheless predicting that 3D glasses may still be eight to ten years away. Toshiba televisions are small and expensive, while the projects currently in development have only achieved near-HD (1280 x 800 WXGA) resolution – suggesting that further development is required before this new technology reaches HD – itself a slow burner – levels of popularity.
Current 3D technology creates the illusion of an extra dimension through utilisation of stereoscopy, by which a different image is presented to each eye using circularly polarized light. This is also, in fact, how 3D is perceived naturally, with slightly different images projected upon each retina due to they two eye’s respective positions on the face – the resultant variations in perception giving the brain clues as to the depth of different objects in the viewer’s optic array.
Rather than the glasses doing all of the work, parallax barrier technology aims to use a series of precision slits upon the screen to create the illusion of 3D. With what is being termed by Toshiba “autostereoscopic high-definition display” – essentially a layer of purpose-made material positioned in front of a normal LCD – the new technology will determine which eye sees which image bypassing the need for glasses.
Interestingly, according to Toshiba’s press release, such autostereoscopic technology might also improve the overall 3D experience.
“The integral imaging system offers a significant reduction in eye fatigue during long periods of viewing, and features a multi-parallax design that enables motion parallax, which cannot be achieved by systems using glasses. The multi-parallax approach results in images that change depending on the viewer’s position.”
With Cameron aiming to eliminate motion parallax by shooting at a higher frame rate and improve the proxy resolution of real-time virtual production with the Avatar sequels, you might not need a pair of 3D glasses to enjoy the fruits of his labour in the comfort of your own home.