The auto-stereoscopic (glasses-free) 3DTV technology is usually criticized by many in the press, especially those that have only seen the first generations of prototypes. The negative comments are mainly about the limited number of viewing positions, the low resolution of the image on each viewing zone (eye) and the disruption of the 3D effect when changing positions.
Auto-stereoscopic panels of today are designed to display 3D to a few viewers in their pre-established positions, and the 3D effect is generally shifted when the viewer changes the position, or when moving the head away from the 3D zone. Although the image may still be seen as 2D in between the 3D viewing zones it is generally blurry. This is a common issue of most auto-stereoscopic prototypes, even the most current generation sets.
For those reasons I understand many may feel that it could take several years for auto-stereoscopic 3DTVs to be available at nationwide retail chains at competitive pricing that is comparable to current glasses-required 3DTVs (active-shutter or polarized glasses technologies), but perhaps there is no need for comparable pricing when the technology could be attractive to consumers that want it and are willing to pay more for it (this subject is covered in the next article).
When the press asserts that the auto-stereoscopic technology itself still needs a decade to be at an acceptable level of quality, the assessment is inaccurate. I admit that the quality of the first demos of some main stream manufacturers, such as Sony and Toshiba at CES 2011, may be insufficient to those that expect perfection in the first models, but the auto-stereoscopic technology is perfecting at a very fast pace, as shown by the prototypes at every trade show, some of very near future products.
Toshiba declared at CES 2011 that their glasses-free 3D sets may be available toward the end of this year or next, not in ten years, but I agree that in most cases the auto-stereoscopic technology has not reached a level of quality comparable to the current quality of HDTV (with the added depth) in large screens. However, what may not be acceptable to your neighbor in a year may be perfect for your purpose now.
Sony and Toshiba should not be used as the primary measurement of the quality readiness of the auto-stereoscopic technology, when at the same CES 2011 the company 3DFusion demoed their panel and 3D video processing engine at a much better level of quality compared to others. As mentioned on this article, 3DFusion’s ability to implement their proprietary smart software engine often makes the transitions between 3D viewing zones while changing positions walking in front of the TV at various angles imperceptible.
Additionally, 3DFusion is already working on continuous improvements to their current auto-stereoscopic 3D panels. For example, the image resolution per viewing zone (eye) will increase beyond the current 900x500 pixels, the panel resolution will be 1.5 times the current 1080p (which in theory should also improve the viewing of 2D), offering screen sizes in the 40s/50s+ inches, that are much larger than the typical laptop-size auto-stereoscopic 3D competitors designed for just one viewer; newer screens will have a higher number of viewing zones (17), which combined with their smart software engine makes the issues of viewing zone transitions a matter of the past (although other manufacturers still have that issue at the present time).
In summary, judging by the articles that inaccurately express that the 3D auto-stereoscopic technology will take a decade, it is obvious that the authors have not yet seen 3D demos from 3DFusion, and I encourage them to view their auto-stereoscopic panel with their software engine.
Next article: 3DTV – Are competitive technologies necessary?
Posted by Rodolfo La Maestra, March 3, 2011 8:02 AM
About Rodolfo La Maestra
Rodolfo La Maestra is the Senior Technical Director of UHDTV Magazine and HDTV Magazine and participated in the HDTV vision since the late 1980's. In the late 1990's, he began tracking and reviewing HDTV consumer equipment, and authored the annual HDTV Technology Review report, tutorials, and educative articles for HDTV Magazine, DVDetc and HDTVetc magazines, Veritas et Visus Newsletter, Display Search, and served as technical consultant/editor for the "Reference Guide" and the "HDTV Glossary of Terms" for HDTVetc and HDTV Magazines. In 2004, he began recording a weekly HDTV technology program for MD Cable television, which by 2006 reached the rating of second most viewed.
Rodolfo's background encompasses Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, and Audio and Video Electronics, with over 4,700 hours of professional training, a BS in Computer and Information Systems, and thirty+ professional and post-graduate certifications, some from MIT, American, and George Washington Universities. Rodolfo was also Computer Science professor in five institutions between 1966-1973 in Argentina, regarding IBM, Burroughs, and Honeywell mainframe computers. After 38 years of computer systems career, Rodolfo retired in 2003 as Chief of Systems Development from the Inter-American Development Bank directing sixty+ software-development computer professionals, supporting member countries in north/central/south America.