How Things Work: 3-D technology adapted for televisions and home usage

Credit: Tommy Hofman | Photo Editor Credit: Tommy Hofman | Photo Editor

Who doesn't remember their first time going to a 3-D movie and being astounded by the objects flying out of the screen? Now, technology has found a way to bring the same wonder into living rooms through the rapid advance of 3-D technology. The idea of 3-D pictures has been around since the invention of stereo photography in 1833, where a single picture was captured from two slightly different angles and then put together in such a way to fool the eye into thinking it was looking at a scene with depth. Technology has obviously come a long way since then, now utilizing many different methods to fool the eye into thinking it is looking at a 3-D picture. These new 3-D technologies can broadly be divided into two groups: ones that need the viewer to wear glasses, and ones that do not require any additional hardware to be used. The more popular form of displays are ones that do not require glasses or filters. These are called “autostereoscopic” displays. They have been around for many decades, but are only becoming popular now, due to the growing production of 3-D television sets.

Autostereoscopic displays use many techniques to produce the effect of 3-D vision. These displays fool the eye into thinking that a 2-D image is actually 3-D by making each eye see a slightly different image to create the illusion of depth. The two main methods to do this are called the parallax barrier and lenticular lens. In the parallax barrier method, a barrier is created between the display and the eyes. This barrier makes sure that each eye receives light from alternating pixels on the screen, so that each eye can receive a slightly different picture. These types of televisions can function as regular 2-D displays, as the parallax barrier can simply be disabled by having a current passed through it to display the pictures normally. In the lenticular lens method, small lenses are attached to the screen, and these direct the light from the television into a defined optimal viewing area where the eyes can look to see a 3-D image. Obviously, both of these methods depend upon the eyes being in a pre-defined area if the viewer wishes to see a 3-D image. However, real viewers do not always sit in the same place to watch television. This difficulty has been eliminated by the television manufacturers by including head or eye-tracking software with their televisions.

Another way manufacturers have been able to make autostereoscopic displays more technologically advanced is by removing the need for head tracking software completely, even though this method requires more computing power to be present in the television. This extra computing power is then used to project light to several different viewpoints at the same time, allowing the eye to move around in the viewing area and not lose the 3-D picture. This method can accommodate a large number of different viewing angles. This process can be accompanied by a loss in resolution, but there is no doubt that as technology moves forward, these televisions will get cheaper and better, too.

3-D televisions are already gaining popularity among several television manufacturers who plan to make 3-D televisions cheaper and more accessible for the public. Many television shows have also started providing 3-D versions; one of the more notable 3-D television broadcasts was the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Although 3-D technology is not just limited to TVs — gadgets such as the Nintendo 3DS and 3-D laptops have been developed — their rapid technological advancement is spurred by high demand and a wave of 3-D movies in theaters. Soon enough, people will have the choice to be able to experience the magic of seeing a 3-D movie in the comfort of their own home.