If you are tired of wearing those goofy glasses for a 3D movie experience, here comes some good news. Scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science have developed a display that lets you watch 3D films in a theatre without eyewear.
Dubbed "Cinema 3D", the prototype uses a special array of lenses and mirrors to enable viewers to watch a 3D movie from any seat in a theatre.
"Existing approaches to glasses-free 3D require screens whose resolution requirements are so enormous that they are completely impractical," said professor Wojciech Matusik from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). "This is the first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3D on a large scale."
Glasses-free 3D already exists but not in a way that scales to movie theatres.
The key insight with Cinema 3D is that people in movie theatres move their heads only over a very small range of angles limited by the width of their seat.
Thus, it is enough to display a narrow range of angles and replicate it to all seats in the theater.
What Cinema 3D does, then, is encode multiple parallax barriers in one display such that each viewer sees a parallax barrier tailored to their position.
That range of views is then replicated across the theatre by a series of mirrors and lenses within Cinema 3D's special optics system.
"The authors [of Cinema 3D] cleverly exploited the fact that theatres have a unique set-up in which every person sits in a more or less fixed position the whole time," added Gordon Wetzstein, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University who was not involved in the research.
The team demonstrated that their approach allows viewers from different parts of an auditorium to see images of consistently high resolution.
The researchers are optimistic that future versions could push the technology to a place where theatres would be able to offer glasses-free alternatives for 3D movies.
The paper is scheduled to be presented at SIGGRAPH computer-graphics conference in Anaheim, California, this week.