Is 3D TV dead? Wake up! It’s alive and kicking

There are a lot of websites claiming 3D TV is dead. For example:

avatarThe TV industry was pushing a 3D technology that was cheap to produce and did not meet expectations. After James Cameron released Avatar, stereoscopic 3D was hot again and everybody jumped into the new hype. The result was a lot of badly produced stereoscopic 3D movies by other production companies. Good stereography is both an Art and a Science, it is not as simple as putting two cameras side by side. Blaming the Cinema or your TV that it displays a bad movie production is not correct. The TV industry is driven by money making. As a result they go for a quick success and step out when they are disappointed. A large part of the 3D industry will be driven by small startup companies with skilled and motivated people. It will speed up again when the big guys come back with their money.

Wearing a pair of lightweight passive 3D glasses in the Cinema, watching a high quality produced movie, is no problem for me. The active shutter glasses supplied with my 3D TV in combination with badly produced stereoscopic 3D really gives me and other people a headache.

Is 3D TV dead? No, it is not, in fact it is just starting. Technology for creating high quality 3D screens is finally becoming available.

Jumping the hurdles

Every expert will agree that glasses-free 3D is the way to go. The limiting factor for creating glasses-free 3D was the high number of pixels needed for a good 3D display.  The resolution of the display is reduced because you see only two views at a time, one for the left and one for the right eye. With 4K-screens we reach the limits what is visible for the human eye. The same technology enables the production of even higher resolution screens. This surplus of pixels will allow more views and even displaying a complete 3D image. Current auto stereoscopic 3D displays (AS3D) are only 2,5D. If you move your head left or right, you see a changing perspective on these displays. If you move your head up or down the perspective does not change.

The second game changer is the availability of good quality micro lens arrays (MLA’s).  A MLA, also known as fly-eye lens array, enables a full 3D light-field. The integral imaging concept of Gabriel Lippmann is finally within our reach. Light field cameras for capturing the light fields are already available and will soon show up in mobile phones.

The third game changer is GPU hardware that can render light-fields. Nvidia presented a prototype of light field glasses at Siggraph 2013.

High quality light field stills are in production for several years now. They show that light fields are scalable to large sizes. This display uses a resolution that is not available in video displays yet, but this is just a matter of time.