New 3D technology looks to the past to overcome the problems of present systems
By Darren Quick
August 15, 2010
With the advent of 3D glasses with polarizing filters and LCD shutters you’d be forgiven for thinking we’d seen the last of the archetypal numbers with different colored filters. Well, think again because European researchers have come up with technology they say can display 3D images at a monitor’s full resolution, with no darkening of the ambient light, no restrictions on viewing angle and with less strain on the eyes than other 3D technologies – and yes, it relies on glasses with different colored filters.
There’s no secret that current 3D technologies aren’t perfect. After the initial hoopla surrounding the latest batch of 3D entertainment, best illustrated by Avatar, people have started to notice a few pitfalls. The glasses – both passive (polarized) and active shutter – cause a noticeable dimming of the image. Also, anyone who has shelled out for a new 3D TV will likely have noticed that it has to be watched with the head in an upright position. Simply tilting your head can cause ghosting and color changes, while laying down can cause the image to disappear altogether. As has also been widely reported, some people can suffer headaches and nausea when watching 3D for an extended period. Not exactly what you’d expect from the next big thing in home entertainment.
German and Swiss researchers on a EUREKA project say they have developed technology that overcomes these problems. The breakthrough is the result of three friends at German company Infitec wanting to develop a 3D LCD flat-screen monitor capable of displaying the full resolution of the new high-definition television formats.
Everything old is new againInfitec had already developed 3D technology for cinemas called wavelength multiplexing, which is based on the principle of the old red and green glasses. The company’s glasses use a much narrower color band wave than the traditional red and green glasses to improve the quality of the image, using specific wavelengths of red, green and blue for the right eye and different wavelengths of the same colors for the left eye. Filtering out very specific wavelengths provides different images to the left and right eyes, giving the spectator the illusion of 3D.
Infitec then partnered up with Swiss company Optics Balzers, which specializes in 3D filters and the two companies secured funding to start developing the 3D LCD screen. While Infitec researched the best signal and lighting to use in the monitor and software for it, Optics Balzers developed special filters for the lighting unit and the glasses.
Dualplex DisplayEventually, the partners decided they would need to create a brand new optic design for the monitor. They finally combined four LEDs – two green, one red and one blue – to create the color range they needed. The end result was a demonstrator 23-inch monitor that the team calls the Dualplex Display. They claim the quality of the image causes less strain on the eyes than other 3D technologies, the glasses do not darken the ambient light and the screen can be viewed from all angles without distorting the 3D images.
“Viewers will be able to lie down on the sofa to watch the screen, they can turn their heads in any direction and the image won’t change,” explains Arnold Simon, Chief Technical Officer at Infitec.
The partners have applied to patent the screen in Germany and are in the process of submitting patents for other countries with the eventual goal of selling the 3D LCD screen to home consumers. Initially though, they think they will find it easier to target niche professional markets such as medical professionals – using 3D imaging to help surgeons doing operations, for instance.
While it sounds promising, as the current crop of 3D technology has shown, the proof of the Dualplex Display will be in the viewing. So we’ll try and contain our excitement until we can lay our own peepers on it.