Movie Theaters Could Get 3D Without Glasses


MIT researchers have designed a movie theater screen that would allow every viewer to watch in 3D without needing glasses. However, they stress their prototype is not market ready right now.

While glasses-free 3D already exists, it isn’t practical for movie theaters. The main version used on TVs involves tiny “parallax barriers” across the screen that force the viewer’s two eyes to see different pixels, which then combine to create the 3D effect. That works on a small screen but not in a movie theater where there’s much more variation in the viewing angle and distance of each seat. Other approaches to big screen 3D take care of this but at the expense of a drastically lowered resolution.

The new MIT approach, dubbed Cinema 3D, adapts the parallax barrier approach by using a series of mirrors and lenses so that each viewer sees a parallax barrier that works for their particular location.

The researchers say the key to making this work is taking account of the fact that each viewer’s head position will usually only move within a limited range during the movie, namely the width of their seat.

While the theory appears to be valid, practical realization could be some way off. According to MIT the current prototype uses 50 sets of lenses and mirrors just for a screen a little bigger than a pad of paper. They plan to work on building larger versions of the display and then figuring out whether scaling it up to a movie theater screen would be practically and financially viable.

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