New Movie Screens Allow 3D Viewing Without Glasses


3D movies are basically motion pictures that enhance the viewer's experience of depth perception, adding a perceived third dimension. Most people like them, but some people complain of headaches, eye strain, and motion sickness after watching 3D movies. 

Stereoscopic movies can be produced using a variety of methods. The stereoscopic era of motion pictures began in the late 1890s, when a man named William Friese-Greene filed a patent for a 3D movie process. In one form or another, 3D movies have been in continuous existence since 1915. They were most prominently featured in 1950s American cinema. That was the 3D movie craze. Popular 3D movies of the fifties include Bwana Devil, House of Wax, and other horror classics.

3D movies later experienced a global comeback in the 1980s and 1990s. Driven by IMAX theaters and Disney themed venues, the popularity of 3D movies has continued to rise. By 2004, more than half of IMAX theaters were able to show 3D movies. Among the modern day classics of the 3D genre are Avatar (2010) Zootopia (2015), and the Kung Fu Panda series, to name only a few.

Recently, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) at MIT, along with Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, has developed a prototype for a new kind of movie screen. It is a screen that allows 3D viewing without the use of 3D glasses. The technology uses a special collection of lenses and mirrors in and around the screen. This paper was originally published by Futurism.

3D viewing without 3D glasses already exists. In fact, there's a plan in place for a series of outdoor laser light displays that create a realistic 3D illusion to the viewer, with full daylight readability. The objective is to create a 3D illusion that changes as the viewer goes around it, with many thousand 3D viewing “zones,” with each zone displaying a different view. Still, this requires mega resolution, making it too expensive and too difficult to play in movie theaters.

Current 3D movies only show us two different pictures – one for each eye. The new display can create hundreds, or even thousands of pictures – one for each viewing location. Cinema 3D encodes various parallax barriers in a single display. This allows the individual viewer to enjoy the 3D experience from any seat in the theater. This is the first technical approach that allows glasses-free 3D viewing on a movie theater screen. This technology is not yet on the market. 

However, according to Wojciech Matusik, coauthor of the paper about the technology, “It remains to be seen whether the approach is financially feasible enough to scale up to a full blown theater, but we are optimistic that this is an important next step in developing glasses-free 3D viewing for large spaces like movie theaters and auditoriums.”

According to researchers, when the new movie screen does come out, existing 3D movies can be converted into the new, high tech format. Does that mean we can take our 3D glasses off?

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