Now that we are all well aware that 3D technology is here to stay for movies, television and soon for games, and mobile devices...it's safe to say that those annoying glasses need to go. This auto-stereoscopic technology is a lot closer than you think and you don't need to go watch Back to the Future 2 to see it.
The first generation of 3D tvs have been impressive but just don't cut the mustard in terms of practicality. In a fairly large effort to be pushed mainstream, 3D television displays have been tough to sell despite the increasing amount of ticket sales for 3D movies at your local cinema. The fact of the matter is, the glasses are too too bulky and expensive, and the average person doesn't want to sit wearing them at home. On top of that, right now there just isn't much 3D content available to watch. This will all soon change in 2011 with the emergence of new 3D devices and the ability to view content glasses-free.
The first of the next generation electronics to implement the concept will be the Nintendo 3DS which will be on shelves as early as next month. The device will create a glasses-free 3D effect using a parallax barrier, which sits on top of an LCD display. These light blocking barriers redirect the left-eye and right-eye images. The idea is that instead of having glasses on your head, they are now on the screen itself. The barriers can also be switched off to display images in regular 2D mode. There's also downsides to this effect. One is that the screens brightness is reduced and the other is that the 3D effect is only visible within a limited viewing range. Because of those reasons, this technology is currently only optimal for smaller devices and wont make its way to larger screens.
Toshiba will be the first in the industry to release a television implementing the glasses-free technology by using lenticular lenses. These are shaped so that a different image is displayed depending on the viewing angle in which you are at. Currently the largest display for this is only a 21 inch screen (currently only available over seas) but larger versions are currently in the works. A 65 inch version was demoed at the 2011 CES show this year and proved glasses-less 3D can be achieved at a much larger scale. Even with this achievement though the viewing angles are still limited but hopefully will be resolved upon the its official release.
A step forward in 3D content will be starting on February 14th when ESPN's 3D channel will begin 24-hour broadcasting. Along with this, multiple digital imaging companies such as Sony, Fujifilm and Panasonic have announced or already have released 3D-capable cameras and camcorders. The images and video will in turn need to be displayed on a 3D capable screen. Also, debuting this year will be cell phones and tablet computers using 3D glasses-free technology. A phone with a glasses-free 3D screen using a technology called Masterimage is already available in Japan.
The future of 3D technology looks promising, with many more screens and devices being released this year. As long as the content grows, 3D will become more available. One question remains...will 3D technology replace 2D and become the new standard for our entertainment viewing if its glasses-free?