The battle has been raging for some months now between Active Shutter glasses technology (pioneered by Panasonic, Samsung and the like) and Passive 3D technology (mainly pioneered by LG). However there have also been developments in creating 3D Television without the need for any glasses at all.
It is said that the need to wear 3D glasses is one of the major barriers to the mass acceptance of 3D TV as a truly popular entertainment medium. 3D glasses are uncomfortable for some, and the need to wear them means you’ll need multiple pairs if watching with friends or family. Add the issue of the cost of glasses for Active Shutter technology, and the less-than HD quality of Passive 3D technology, and maybe that’s why some people have been reluctant to dip a toe in the 3D TV pool. Perhaps glasses-free 3D TV is the answer?
The two main breakthrough technologies that are trying to solve this problem of no glasses 3D TV are known as parallax barrier or lenticular lens technology. These methods of delivering 3D TV without glasses are also known as autostereoscopy, and the 3D TVs that deliver them are built using what’s termed as ‘autostereoscopic screens’.
Recent developments in something called head tracking 3D technology give a possible third solution, where a built in webcam locks on to a viewers’ eyes and displays the split in images required for that viewer to ‘see’ in 3D – adjusting the images emitted from the display as the viewer moves. That seems a little frightening doesn’t it?
Finally there’s a possible “Fourth Way” as Hungarian technology firm iPont 3D are working on development of the 3D TV Box, a device that has a potentially superior method of delivering no glasses 3D TV in a unique way. The device can convert 3D video data into signals needed by autostereoscopic 3D displays–the kind that don’t use glasses.
However so far none of the methods of delivering no glasses 3D TV have been totally perfected and picture quality appears not to rival that of the 3D glasses technologies. The problem is that in most circumstances we need to be able to watch TV content from multiple different positions and still get the 3D effect, and with the no glasses models seen so far there’s a requirement to sit at an optimal position (height and distance from the display) or the 3D effect is lost.
It’s pretty much guaranteed that the major manufacturers will find a way to give us glasses-free 3D TV at a price that’s affordable and of a quality that makes it all worthwhile within the next year or so. In fact one is for sale even now! The 2011 IFA – the world’s largest trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances held in early September each year – saw the first public demonstration of Toshiba’s new no glasses 3D TV. Labelled in Europe as the 55ZL2, it’s known in Japan as the 55X3.
The 55 inch LED backlit, lenticular screen TV works with Full Quad HD (FQHD) resolution displaying 3840 x 2160 pixels. That’s four times as many pixels as a 1920 x 1080p 3D TV. Don’t expect too much though. The maximum resolution supported currently by the 3D movies themselves is ‘just’ 1820 x 720, so 4k might seem well over the top!
The 3D effect is delivered via lenticular lenses which create nine different perspectives or views of each single 3D frame – a sheet of convex lenses on top of the display controls how light emits from it and delivers the images at an angle to each eye – thus creating the difference in images our brain needs to ‘see’ in 3D. Lenticular lenses have another benefit in that they make it possible to see multiple different images from multiple angles, in effect allowing more than one person to view at the same time.
Few people have had the chance to give this new 3D TV a workout but some reports suggest that it doesn’t quite deliver the same immersive experience you get with active shutter 3D sets or even some of the passive sets, although 2D is expected to be of ultra high quality thanks to the Full Quad HD.
Toshiba are attempting to solve the problem of viewing positions by use of the TVs CEVO-ENGINE which uses a face tracking solution to detect positions of the viewers. This uses a camera positioned below the display which recognises how many people are watching and where they’re seated in order to deliver the 3D images so everyone gets the same effect. The face tracking feature is enabled by a button on the remote control. I guess that’s similar to the technology that allows point and shoot cameras to detect faces.
The 55ZL2 is on sale at the moment from John Lewis. The price? Aaah.. I thought you would ask that. Just under £7000! I guess if you have money to burn, then go for it. Me? I’ll wait till the technology becomes cheaper before I part with my trusty Panasonic Viera 3D Smart TV and the glasses required with it. That suits me just fine. I wear glasses even when I’m not watching the TV you see, so it’s no problem for me to wear glasses- and I keep nearly £7000 in the bank!
More information on TVs here!