MIT Scientists Create Glasses-Free 3D Screen

Jul 26, 2016 03:30 AM EDT

Moviegoers can now watch a 3D movie without wearing 3D glasses.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have created a model of a 3D screen that allows people to watch a 3D movie minus the goofy-looking glasses.

Dubbed "Cinema 3D," the prototype screen is made of special lenses and mirrors that allow viewers to seat anywhere in the theater and provide a 3D-movie experience without the need for a pair of 3D glasses.

"Existing approaches to glasses-free 3-D require screens whose resolution requirements are so enormous that they are completely impractical," Wojciech Matusik, MIT professor and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

"This is the first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3D on a large scale."

The MIT researchers teamed up with Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science to develop the idea, which will be presented this week at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference in Anaheim, California.


How it works

Although glasses-free 3D screens are already being used today, Cinema 3D is the first large-scale screen that could be used effectively in theaters.

The usual 3D television sets make use of a "parallax barrier," which are a series of slits in front of the screen. This system allows each eye to see a different set of pixels, thus creating the simulated sense of depth.

However, viewers have to be seated at a consistent distance from the parallax barriers, which make it impractical to use in theaters where there are viewers seated at different angles and distances.

The insight behind Cinema 3D is that viewers in theaters usually move their heads over a small range of angles, as their movements are limited by their seats. The idea is to display a narrow range of angles and replicate it to all seats in the theater, the scientists said.

Cinema 3D encodes multiple parallax barriers in one display, which allows each viewer to see a parallax barrier specific to their position. The view is then replicated across the theater using mirrors and lenses.

However, the researchers said that Cinema 3D requires 50 sets of mirrors and lenses, and is just about the size of a pad of paper, which makes it impractical to use at the moment. The team hopes to build a larger version of the display and improve the resolution. 

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