Cinema breakthrough could mean no more need for 3D glasses

26 Jul 2016

A new prototype display could show 3D movies to any seat in a cinema, with no eyewear required. Image: Christine Daniloff/MIT

For the fashion-conscious movie goer, 3D movies are a chore due to the necessity for clumsy-looking glasses. That could change with the dawn of a new screen.

‘Multiple parallax barriers’ may be the development that sees 3D glasses gone for good.

A series of minuscule slits in front of the screen, these multiple parallax barriers allow users to see different sets of pixels, creating a sense of depth and producing a 3D effect for the viewer.

Future Human

This was previously not possible in cinemas due to the range of seating positions and viewing angles, rendering parallax barriers relatively useless at scale.

However, MIT researchers claim to have found a way to change that, with Cinema 3D.

3D glasses cinema

The team realised that we barely move our heads when in cinemas, often restricting our movements to the width of the seats we sit in.

Multiple parallax barriers, therefore, could display a narrow range of angles and replicate these to all seats in the theatre if a series of mirrors and lenses were built into the screen, acting like a prism targeting each seat in a cinema.

This would mean that 3D displays could be visible anywhere in an auditorium.

“Existing approaches to glasses-free 3D require screens whose resolution requirements are so enormous that they are completely impractical,” says MIT professor Wojciech Matusik.

“This is the first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3D on a large scale.”

Sadly, Cinema 3D is not yet near market-ready, with 50 sets of lenses and mirrors needed to achieve decent quality on a screen the size of just a notepad.

Feasibility, so, is the issue, and Matusik is unsure if it can be scaled up “to a full-blown theatre”.

“But we are optimistic that this is an important next step in developing glasses-free 3D for large spaces like movie theatres and auditoriums.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic