Many people have endured the absurd guise of the iconic red and cyan lenses. Perched flimsily on the nose they've unsurprisingly never become a major fashion accessory.
It's true that today's 3D spectacles are much more respectable in appearance. However, it seems that even they might soon become an embarrassing adornment of the past with the advent of 3D imaging.
Pioneered in the early 20th century, autostereoscopy has now developed to such an extent that the public may soon be enjoying it in the comfort of their own home.
'Autostereoscopy is comprised of two parts,' describes Markus Klippstein, CEO at 3D International Europe, and a major provider of 3D solutions. ''Stereoscopy' means real spatial viewing like the normal human being does by the means of his eyes: we watch two different pictures and the brain creates a spatial scene out of it.
'Auto' means by itself so without the need of any help; this means, without the need of glasses. So, with 'autostereoscopic' displays you can look at it with no glasses - no 3D glasses - and you have a spatial impression: the image doesn't only go inside the screen it also pops out of the screen.'
Autostereoscopic 3D television works in a similar way to the eyes. When someone looks at an object their right eye and their left eye take in separate angles because they work as independent lenses.
These images are then processed in the brain to produce a complete three dimensional picture. The method being utilized by major television manufacturers is called parallax barrier.
For a 2D display, both eyes see the same image. For a 3D image, a barrier is created between the backlight and the LCD screen by a layer of liquid crystal containing slits. This means that light can only pass through to certain areas of the screen and results in each eye registering a different image.
The age of 3D glasses
Sony's design has a wrap around feature to block out excessive light as well as flexible ear pieces and sides which can be adjusted. However, with only two pairs per set this doesn't eradicate the possible necessity to buy more pairs and at a price of £100 each they aren't cheap.
Plus, because 3D glasses for television work with active shutter technology there's the additional ordeal of needing to recharge or purchase batteries.
'The major set back at the moment,' explains Markus, 'is that most of the 3D screens have a certain volumetric position, or bad viewing position, so there are viewing limitations.'
This can be demonstrated with Toshiba's model, Regza. Set to be launched in Japan in December of this year, Toshiba looks like it will be the first to launch autostereoscopy into the public sphere. The sets will initially be available in two monitor sizes: 12 inch (12GL) and 20 inch (20GL).
They've managed to create a sheet of nine, small lenses which sit in front of the screen. The pixel banks are separated by these lenses and then transferred to nine different regions in front of your television.
Therefore, in order to gain the 3D effect a viewer has to sit in one of these nine areas. The best position is at a 40° angle with a distance of 65cm for the 12GL and 90cm for the 20GL.
It has been noted that even slight head movements could lead to a distorted image. Major health issues surrounding 3D glasses have been complaints of headaches and blurred vision. With Toshiba's sets, posture concerns could also prove to be a problem.
The other issue is one of resolution. Regza uses 8.29 million pixels with nine pixels for each colour. This is a large figure, especially when compared to a traditional HD set which only uses a quarter of this amount.
However, despite this, the resulting image only has a HD of 720p. In order to achieve a full HD final image an 8k4k screen, coined Super HiVision, would be required.
Currently, the best application of autostereoscopy would appear to be within the gaming market. The size of handheld devices means that limitations concerning viewing position are quashed and the content can be of a higher standard.
A popular example is that of the Nintendo 3DS which is set to be out in UK shops on March 25th at a retail price of around £200. The games are given a sense of space and depth not possible before.
In addition, it includes a 3D camera that cannot only be used for photographs but also to play AR games which unfold in front of the player on whatever solid surface the 3DS is placed. This new design is truly set to revolutionize the world of video games.
A 3D future?
The present public's feeling towards 3D TV appears to be mixed. The general consensus on Twitter concerning the current stereoscopic sets varies from those who are amazed by them to those who cannot see the point of this new fad.
Some even recognise that it's perhaps still too early in the development process to start releasing such technology into the mainstream domain.
However, this doesn't take away from the possible future autostereoscopic applications, including for use in professional spheres like medicine, security and combat.
Currently, International 3D Europe is dealing with digital signage in Japan so it may not be long until such screens are layered along London's underground system. 3D smartphones are another possible application for the next couple of years. In fact, Hitachi released its 3D phone in Japan for approximately £500 in 2009.
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|A glasses - free future for 3D|
|3D International Europe|