Thursday, July 24, 2014

MIT Researchers Developing Intense New Glasses-Free 3D Projector

Glasses-free 3D projection is something that a lot of tech companies, including the Camera Culture Group at MIT's Media Lab, have been working on for the past three years. The idea is to create a glasses-free, multiperspective, 3D video screen. This screen could provide a cheaper, more practical alternative to holographic video in the short run.

Well, it seems as if a projector has been developed that exploits the same technology, which the Camera Culture Group will unveil at this year's Siggraph, the biggest computer graphics conference in the world. In addition to that, this projector is also said to be able to improve the resolution and contrast of conventional video, which could make it a nice transitional technology as content producers learn to utilize multiperspective 3D technology more efficiently.

Multiperspective 3D is different from stereoscopic 3D in that the 3D objects allow the viewer to move among them, as if actually in the environment. This means that multiperspective 3D could have applications in areas like collaborative design or medical imaging in addition to entertainment. The researchers at MIT built a prototype of their system with the heart of it being a pair of liquid-crystal modulators that are positioned between the light source and the lens. Patterns of light and dark on the first modulator turn it into a bank of slightly angled light emitters. Light passing through the second emitter only does so at a certain angle as a result. The combinations of the patterns that the two modulators display ensures that viewers will see slightly different images from different angles.

In addition to that, the researchers also built a prototype screen that widens the angle from which their projector's images are viewed. This new screen combines two lenticular lenses similar to the type used to create rough 3D effects reminiscent of old children's books.

Each modulator displays six different patterns for every frame of video, which produce eight different viewing angles. At a high enough display rate, our visual system will combine information from different images automatically. The modulators are capable of refreshing their patterns at 240 hertz, or 240 times per second. This means that even at six patterns per frame, the system is capable of playing video at a rate of 40 hertz. Even though this is a lower refresh rate than what is common in today's HDTVs it is still higher than the 24 frames per second that is standard in films.

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I don't know how I feel about glasses-free 3D projection at the moment. I've never really been much of an enthusiast for regular 3D. I will say that I like the way 3D movies are doing more internal 3D than external. What I mean by that is that the picture looks more like an open window with the scenes looking like I could walk right into them as opposed to just a bunch of things flying off the screen out at you. This new technology could be the very first step into creating actual holographic projection.