Give Me 3D TV, Without The Glasses

You can’t spit on the CES convention floor without hitting a 3D HDTV. To some, this is cause for excitement. For me, it is cause for Advil. Watching a 3D movie or television set isn’t pleasant due to the glasses required to see the stereoscopic image. I know I’m not the only one who finds the experience uncomfortable.

But discomfort—headaches, eyestrain, nausea—isn’t the only problem with 3D glasses. If we all had 3D TVs in our homes, how many glasses would we buy? Six? And what if one day there were seven people in your living room? What if you lost a pair? 3D glasses are inconvenient at best, and disruptive at worst.

Before attending CES, I knew there had to be another way. Turns out, there are several ways. This week, I sought out companies who are attempting to bypass the 3D glasses issue with a variety of technologies, each usually referred to as “auto-stereoscopic.”. None of them are perfect, and nearly none of them are available commercially—but they all hold promise. I, for one, hope the marketplace adopts a non-glasses approach to 3DTV. More on CES 2010

Not many manufacturers are yet investing in the no-glasses 3D system, and all of them are very hard to find on the show floor. In fact, we never did find two manufacturers who were supposed to be present. The first is Magnetic 3D, which makes monitors ranging from 22 to 42 inches that could be used for gaming (this line is called the Emersa series). The second is NEC, which is working on a 12.1-inch auto-stereoscopic 3D display for the Japanese market, and also will make displays as small as 3.1 inches. In general, most of the companies looking to enter the non-glasses 3D market are first approaching it from the retail and commercial perspective: screens that show advertising in public spaces, rather than in products designed for the home market.

The first no-glasses-required set we actually managed to spot on the show floor is made by a Chinese company called TCL. A loop of animated 3D cartoons played over a honeycomb of 3D sets. The 42-inch TD-42F is already on the market in China, says TCL 3DTV Project Marketing Manager King (no last name). It sells for about $20,000. It works like this: there are actually eight lenses on the screen itself. Depending on where you stand in relation to the TV, you see only a few of those perspectives. This “lenticular” system is popular in all the 3D systems with no glasses that we saw. TCL’s TV set only displayed animation on the show floor. Looking at live-action would’ve been a better test of the set’s potential for eventual home use. The 3D aspect of the screen did not “pop” forward as much as, say, the flying fictional beasts in the showing of Avatar I saw last weekend. The up-in-frontness of it was much more subtle here.

Next, I checked out a prototype at Samsung’s booth. The 50-inch display has a very wide viewing angle, and I could see 3D cartoons no matter where I stood in front of it (again, no live action footage). The images on screen looked very similar to those on the TCL set. Personally, I don’t see a downside to a 3D world where bullets don’t look like they're two inches from your nose—those kinds of special effects are cheesy, anyway. I want 3D images to enhance my experience, not distract me with flashy flying objects that make me gasp. Samsung’s prototype is made for commercial use, and the company has not announced plans to make this prototype into a product for home use.

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  • Don't forget true 3D from:
    http://www.holografika.com/
  • Great article sans "...where bullets don’t look like THEIR two inches from your nose..." Maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine, but "their" is a possessive pronoun and should not be used as a they are contraction.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    wefawdGreat article sans "...where bullets don’t look like THEIR two inches from your nose..." Maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine, but "their" is a possessive pronoun and should not be used as a they are contraction.

    You are so right, and I'm so ashamed! Corrected.
  • jackbauer
    I'm not surprised you didn't see magnetic... they are excellent in PR but deliver little. Plus their AS-3D technology is overpriced and extremely painful to watch; you need to be at an exact point to see the effect, and everything that pops out is fuzzy. I'll take glasses over that thank you.
  • glasses don't bother me a bit, if your getting dizzy and getting eyestrain from a 3d movie, you're trying to hard, you have to let your eyes relax and just watch it like a normal movie. I don't see the inconvenience of glasses either, millions of people wear glasses already just so they can see.
  • Khimera2000
    many people wear contacts to :D i wonder if you can make 3d contacts... no fuss of glasses on your face :) id try them
  • Tomsguiderachel
    gmc42082glasses don't bother me a bit, if your getting dizzy and getting eyestrain from a 3d movie, you're trying to hard, you have to let your eyes relax and just watch it like a normal movie. I don't see the inconvenience of glasses either, millions of people wear glasses already just so they can see.

    Well, then thousands of people are "trying too hard." Shouldn't it just work for everybody? You shouldn't have to learn how to watch a movie. I wear glasses just so I can see, and they don't bother me a bit. I'm glad the glasses don't bother you--but wouldn't it be better without them? Nobody wants to keep track of yet another accessory within the home.
  • JohnnyLucky
    All I got to see at my local Fry's was a 3D monitor that required wearing special eyeglasses. I didn't like it. It didn't look very good and it hurt my eyes.
  • blackbeastofaaaaagh
    I suspect that much of the eye-strain and related migraines are caused by flaws in the movie recording itself and not the eye wear. The last few IMAX 3D movies I saw seem to have the problem licked. I myself have very sensitive eyes, wear prescription glasses, and suffer migraines yet I had no headaches or eyestrain during my last few viewings.
  • Yes, stop bitching and put the glasses on and enjoy an amazing experience!
    I really hope to see them introduce 3D sound soon as well. This technology has existed for a long time and the combination of both would be an amazing experience!.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    vk4akpYes, stop bitching and put the glasses on and enjoy an amazing experience! I really hope to see them introduce 3D sound soon as well. This technology has existed for a long time and the combination of both would be an amazing experience!.

    I'm making a long-term bet that glasses will NOT be the technology that eventually makes its way into living rooms. I've got a pretty good track record for consumer electronics industry insights, and I just want to encourage everyone that just because the vendors/manufacturers are saying it has to be one way, consumers have a voice and if they don't like it that way, they can stop it. The companies will think of another way to sell 3DTV to us--a better way.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    blackbeastofaaaaaghI suspect that much of the eye-strain and related migraines are caused by flaws in the movie recording itself and not the eye wear. The last few IMAX 3D movies I saw seem to have the problem licked. I myself have very sensitive eyes, wear prescription glasses, and suffer migraines yet I had no headaches or eyestrain during my last few viewings.

    I want to make clear that my opposition to glasses is not just about physical discomfort--I really do think it is not an efficient solution for the home. Only time will tell...
  • 3dtvuk
    This was a good article, Rachel, thanks. It's interesting that Philips seem to be missing out the "requires glasses" wave of 3D TV's and are going straight for "no glasses required" 3D TV. They seem to be in the minority, but it could pay off as they'll refine the technology while the other manufacturer's are busy with the current wave.

    Guy
  • blackbeastofaaaaagh
    I want to make clear that my opposition to glasses is not just about physical discomfort--I really do think it is not an efficient solution for the home. Only time will tell...

    Yes, I realised that the discomfort you described was of a neurological/optical nature and not from wearing the glasses themselves. However, are you certain that it is being caused by the technology itself and not the movie recording? I also hated the headaches I would get viewing 3D IMAX (and the various amusement park equivalents). When a movie is produced all the geometry has to be incredibly precise between the two channels. Even subtle things such as reflections and surface lighting has to be carefully calculated for a natural viewing experience. It was when I saw "Monsters vs. Aliens" that it finally seemed that the effects departments have finally learned how to get it right.

    I really don't think polarised glasses are such as nuisance as you suspect. You can wear them anywhere inside the house in much the same way as sunshades. Outdoor lighting may cause problems though.

    As far as a direct-viewing solution the only solution I can think of are the ones employing irregular surface. This technology can only work if viewers are sitting within narrow ranges of fixed viewing angles. Also, for each viewing position the screen brightness and resolution falls by 2X the number of intended viewers.

    The only possible direct-view solution I can think of is if an LCD (or some other adaptive light blocking technology based) video panel, that preserves light phase, is developed possessing such a super-fine resolution (the pitch would have to be comparable to the wavelength of visible light) that it can function as a light diffraction grating film (similar to how holographic pictures work). It would then be a simple matter (within the near future) to create a composite picture by alternately lighting the panel using RGB laser light generators.
  • Give me a break. Oh the glasses are the deal breaker for you! Wow. So let me get this straight - when you go outside in the sun, do you NOT put on sunglasses? Hours at a time sometimes?

    Give. Me. A. Break.
  • From a technical standpoint, it is very difficult to manufacture a TV which can send different images to each eye of more than one person from all kinds of angles. 3D monitors have been around for several years but require you to sit almost perfectly centered with respect to the screen. Now imagine 4 people sitting next to each other on a couch. Or wanting to lay down on the couch and watch a movie with your head tilted on a pillow. There are many scenarios in which it's just not feasible yet for the TV to do all the work.
    On the flipside, wearing the polarized glasses is an extremely simple solution and already in-use.

    Who knows, maybe somebody much smarter than I will figure out a way. I just don't see how it's physically possible to do it right now while maintaining a 'normal' living-room experience/environment.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    jimdoreyGive me a break. Oh the glasses are the deal breaker for you! Wow. So let me get this straight - when you go outside in the sun, do you NOT put on sunglasses? Hours at a time sometimes?Give. Me. A. Break.

    I wear glasses AND sunglasses. OUTSIDE. Why would I want to wear them inside if I didn't have to? And that's the point--we don't HAVE TO. Manufacturers could embrace the non-glasses options I saw at CES.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    austincbFrom a technical standpoint, it is very difficult to manufacture a TV which can send different images to each eye of more than one person from all kinds of angles. 3D monitors have been around for several years but require you to sit almost perfectly centered with respect to the screen. Now imagine 4 people sitting next to each other on a couch. Or wanting to lay down on the couch and watch a movie with your head tilted on a pillow. There are many scenarios in which it's just not feasible yet for the TV to do all the work.On the flipside, wearing the polarized glasses is an extremely simple solution and already in-use.Who knows, maybe somebody much smarter than I will figure out a way. I just don't see how it's physically possible to do it right now while maintaining a 'normal' living-room experience/environment.

    I'm not saying the technology is ready today. But I think it could be very soon if it is endorsed by the big manufacturers. 2 of the options I saw at CES (TCL and 3D Eye Solutions) could be seen from several angles. not necessarily ANY angle, but at least 6 or 7. That means we're close.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    blackbeastofaaaaaghI want to make clear that my opposition to glasses is not just about physical discomfort--I really do think it is not an efficient solution for the home. Only time will tell...Yes, I realised that the discomfort you described was of a neurological/optical nature and not from wearing the glasses themselves. However, are you certain that it is being caused by the technology itself and not the movie recording? I also hated the headaches I would get viewing 3D IMAX (and the various amusement park equivalents). When a movie is produced all the geometry has to be incredibly precise between the two channels. Even subtle things such as reflections and surface lighting has to be carefully calculated for a natural viewing experience. It was when I saw "Monsters vs. Aliens" that it finally seemed that the effects departments have finally learned how to get it right.I really don't think polarised glasses are such as nuisance as you suspect. You can wear them anywhere inside the house in much the same way as sunshades. Outdoor lighting may cause problems though.As far as a direct-viewing solution the only solution I can think of are the ones employing irregular surface. This technology can only work if viewers are sitting within narrow ranges of fixed viewing angles. Also, for each viewing position the screen brightness and resolution falls by 2X the number of intended viewers.The only possible direct-view solution I can think of is if an LCD (or some other adaptive light blocking technology based) video panel, that preserves light phase, is developed possessing such a super-fine resolution (the pitch would have to be comparable to the wavelength of visible light) that it can function as a light diffraction grating film (similar to how holographic pictures work). It would then be a simple matter (within the near future) to create a composite picture by alternately lighting the panel using RGB laser light generators.

    I'm not even saying that physical discomfort is the only problem. I'm saying that it is impractical to have half a dozen glasses on your coffee table. It is inefficient to have an object between your eyes and the screen. In an ideal world, we wouldn't need the glasses. And that "ideal" is not impossible, judging from what I saw at CES.
  • rantoc
    I hope they do the more real way, not just bump up the refreshrate, sync a pair of googles to dim out an eye while showing the other with the eye separation angle every other frame. Its "lazy", i would like a TV/Monitor that dont require such ways to lure my vision that its 3D. I bet if you see a true stereoscopic movie (IE show both eyes simultanious) it would feel more natural and likely also make you dive into the experience that producer want to create due to the subconsious part in it... Much like subminimal messaging, you can't consiously differentiate when just one frame is altered but unconsiously you will!
  • d_kuhn
    There's only two ways to display a 3d image. The first is to make it 3D and allow us to percieve it naturally. The downside is that the display device will also have to be 3d and will require the same volume of space to display the 3d construct as the size of the construct itself. This in fact could be a very useful tool... but it's application for entertainment would be limited.

    The second way is to simulate a 3d image by utilizing two separate 2d images that conform to the same spacial mapping as we would see if we were looking at the actual 3d object. This is the way all the new devices are going. It provides a "Window into a 3d world" effect. The problem there is for it to work... you REALLY need 2 different 2d images. You could get there by a couple methods:

    - 2 different displays that each are only visible to one eye with appropriate optics to position the images some reasonable distance away from the viewer (big LCD headsets you sometimes see).

    - 1 display that alternates between the two images and some other devices that selectively routes each image to the proper eye (shutter glasses)

    - 1 display that uses chomatic mapping to fool eyes into mapping 3d using filtering glasses (old two color cardboard 'glasses')

    - 1 display that uses lenslets of some sort to change where each eye vector path strikes the image. (this is what they're talking about above).

    All methods have some benefits and drawbacks. The top two current contenders are LCD (leader) and lensed display (as discussed in article)

    The final method has the benefit of not requiring any additional device to control image routing, but the drawbacks are that it's quite sensitive to view distance (3d effect falls off quickly when you're not in the 'sweet spot'), reduces the effective resolution of the display drastically (you use many pixels to display each '3d-pixel' location) and has a limited range of depth that it's able to replicate.

    The Shutter method requires glasses, and depends on displays with very high refresh rates to avoid user eye strain (I think you'd need >200hz to eliminate it for the majority of users).

    You can go either way... but having seen both I much prefer shutter glasses until dual displya headsets get light and cheap (and resolution up)
  • megan12392
    i think its a neat idea but there are still a few problems to smooth out like of course the glasses and also the lack of material (ie movies dvds tv shows and channels) available in 3d, so i don't know.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    Stay tuned for 2 more articles next week about the future of 3DTV technologies...we're really interested in this topic after CES. We're going to get a tour of some labs that are working on Non-Glasses 3DTV.
  • joaomsc
    I think the glasses are the cheapest solution, as long as the content is distributed for that.
    For games it's easy to code the stereo effect, and display tha content on the screens, for TVs to convert it on the fly, I think it will not only need great processor power, but it will not work effectively.

    The main question here is why do we need to buy new "3D" TVs when only the content and glasses are the only new stuff? It seens like only a market strategy.

    The case with glasses-free TVs are different, the TV itself has new hardware, like the coating or lenses. If it's is glasses-free it would worth my money.