New system promises better glasses-free 3D TV
Wide-angle autostereoscopic displays provide the opportunity for practical glasses-free 3D viewing, but the incompatibility of current 3D-media has hindered the further development and implementation of the technology. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications have been working to provide a solution to this issue, producing a technology capable of converting conventional 3D Blu-rays for use with the new display technology.
Glasses-free viewing is nothing new, of course, with companies such as Nintendo and Toshiba releasing products featuring glasses-free 3D displays. However, these systems utilize lenticular displays or parallax barriers, which project two sets of images at the same time, one for each eye. This presents the issue of there being just one “sweet spot” or perfect viewing angle. While some systems such as the eye-tracking webcam seen on LG's DX2000 display lessen the impact of the issue, these current technologies are simply not suited to devices that are intended for use by more than one viewer.
Accordingly, television manufacturers have been working on this issue, endeavoring to produce displays that can facilitate 3D playback with wide, living-room friendly viewing angles. Prototypes of these TV screens, known as autostereoscopic displays, already exist and are likely to be commercially available in the not-too-distant future. However, there is one key issue that, until now, has kept glasses-free 3D just out of reach: the content.
Autostereoscopic screens need five to ten views of the same scene in order to create the wide-angle viewing experience. Current 3D Blu-rays only provide the two perspectives required for conventional 3D displays.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Herts Institute (HHI) in Berlin, have been working on a solution to this issue. The team has developed a technology that takes the conventional 3D Blu-ray image and converts it for use with the new autostereoscopic display technology. “We take the existing two images and generate a depth map," HHI research fellow Christian Riechert explains. "That is to say, a map that assigns a specific distance from the camera to each object.” Then, a number of intermediate views are created through the use of depth image-based rendering techniques.
This idea in itself, is not a new one. However, the real breakthrough is in the autonomous nature of the technology. Prior to this development, systems that apply a similar conversion either needed much greater periods of time to produce the depth map, or required manual adaptation. Conversely, the system developed by HHI has the ability to make the conversion in real-time, making it practical for integration into televisions and Blu-ray players.
The team is currently working with industry partners, with the intention of integrating the hardware into televisions and will demo the technology at the IFA trade show in Berlin later this month. It is expected that the technology will not be commercially available for at least a year.
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1) Multizone parallax and barrier displays of upto 60 inches were available since 2005 from Opticality / Newsight
2) Philip's WoWVX series of autostereo displays were the brightest with the least amount of cross talk back in 2006. With today's finer pixel pitch, these displays could be even better. Too bad Philips had to shut the division down (this was 3D being done pre-Avatar era)
3) Philips' had a solution called "Red Box" that did depth map from Stereo in real-time back then. The algorithm ran on a PC. With optimization it could be burned to silicon for inclusion in SmartTVs.
Yet other processes using Optical flow and warping to generate in-between views from standard Stereoscopic pair (software such as Re:Flex from Revision effects can do this).
I only add the above info, for the sake of completeness to readers who may not know the timeline of progress that was made in Autostereoscopic Hardware and content generating solutions.
The main point that remains is how artifact free is the final content and what is the cone of comfortable viewing today's generation of auto stereo displays offer.