Dolby Refines Glasses-Free 3D

The Holy Grail of 3D has long been 3D without glasses—technically known as autostereoscopic 3D. But past CES demos of this technology have been notable duds.

The only way to do 3D without glasses is to process the image so that the images to each eye are isolated. But this has a side effect. You can see the 3D when viewed straight on. Move off center by a few degrees and the 3D disappears, taking some image quality with it. Move a bit further off-axis and the 3D returns. And so on—and off. The result is you get 3D only in a limited range of viewing zones, and poor image quality in others.

But Dolby has now refined this technology so that there are more zones where you get good 3D (and a good picture), fewer “dead” zones. In a demo I witnessed at CES today, the only side effect I noticed was a slight rippling of the image as I in moved from side to side. The rippling wasn’t visible when I stayed in an active location, and there was no obvious degradation of the picture.

Even more interesting is that the effect is adjustable. You can choose more depth with slightly more zone-to-zone ripple (ideal for the lone viewer or gamer, who can sit wherever he or she wants), or less ripple—or virtually none from what I saw in a brief demo—but a less extreme 3D effect. I actually preferred the latter. The relatively subtle enhancement of depth in the low setting looked more like real life to me and less like the otherworldly, Superman 3D vision depth you see in today’s 3D with glasses. (The two modes were actually demonstrated here on different sets.)

Another plus is that without the glasses the 3D picture is much brighter. A downside is that the technique is not possible with projectors, either home or theatrical.

Two HDTV manufacturers, Vizio and Sharp (plus a third, a Chinese maker whose name is missing from my notes but it’s neither Hisense nor TCL), are said to be working on incorporating the Dolby system into products. But I heard or saw nothing on the show floor about such products being imminent (though Sharp is using it on an 8K prototype display). 4K is the food of choice at the 2014 CES banquet, but we may hear more about this new glasses-free 3D system later in the year. There’s also a competing system from IZON.

oluv's picture

so did it actually look convincing?
the one autostereoscopic TV from toshiba i have seen and tested was rather a dud. i didn't get any good 3d-image from it. either edges were blurred while center was 3d, or there was no 3d-effect at all.