Microsoft Develops Glasses-Free 3D TV

Jonathan Sutton

Although 3D TV is all the rage these days given the commercial success of 3D movies like Avatar, one important factor that could potentially hinder uptake remains the necessary donning of 3D glasses, with its associated cost and hassle.

With this in mind, many manufacturers are working hard to develop glasses-free autostereoscopic 3D displays. Intel demonstrated a glasses-free 3D TV at CES 2010 (though resolution was below 720p, and the full 3D effect can only be experienced at 8 specific positions relative to the screen). In April 2010, Sharp unveiled a 3.4″ glasses-free 3D touchscreen display for use in handheld devices; only to be topped swiftly by Toshiba who has developed a 21-inch autostereoscopic HD LCD display using a similar technology to that implemented on the forthcoming Nintendo 3DS.

And now Microsoft has joined the fray. The company’s division of Applied Sciences have devised a 3D prototype which utilises a wedge-shaped lens (11mm at the top tapering to 6mm at the bottom) to direct light into viewers’ eyes by toggling an array of light-emitting diodes along its bottom edge, allowing separate images to be shown to different viewers, or in the case of 3D, different images to be presented to the viewer’s left and right eye to create a stereoscopic effect.

By also incorporating a tracking camera, Microsoft’s prototype 3D TV can detect the eye movements of the viewers so that it knows where to steer its light output, which means that viewers should be able to enjoy the 3D experience irrespective of their position relative to the display. Armed with these technologies, the 3D TV is currently capable of delivering a 3D video to 2 viewers simultaneously (one video for each eye), or a 2D video to 4 viewers at the same time.

Steven Bathiche, director of Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group, claims that the newly developed lens can be installed in place of traditional CCFL backlight in LCD TVs to make glasses-free 3D TV possible. Because the resultant picture quality depends a lot on the screen refresh rate, Microsoft is currently urging LCD manufacturers to develop faster panels, so that the full potential of their glasses-free 3D technology can be realised.

Source: MIT Technology Review