Beyond the extra $4+ movie theaters charge for the "experience," one of the biggest burdens of viewing a 3D movie are those cumbersome glasses. With several different types of 3D available, many of which require a different pair of glasses - not to mention a ton of movies that don't make all that great use of 3D (usually a post-converted film) - most casual moviegoers simply forgo the experience altogether.
But what if one of the biggest obstacles to that experience (the aforementioned annoying glasses) could be eliminated altogether? It's not exactly happening anytime soon, but a group of South Korean researchers have published a study claiming they have found a way for theaters to project a 3D image without the need for glasses, and it requires no additional projector installation.
The proposal, which was published in Optics Express, presents a technology that isn't too overly complicated to set up, but requires quite a bit of explanation. Here's a handy breakdown courtesy of Wired:
The new method would allow movie theaters to keep their projectors where they’ve always been, behind the audience, and uses fairly simple optical technology. A special array sits in front of the projector and polarizes its light. A filter covering the screen then obscures different vertical regions of the screen, like the slats of venetian blinds. Each of your eyes, sitting at a slightly different angle, has some of the screen blocked and some of the screen visible. The movie has the right-eye and left-eye images interleaved in vertical columns with one another. The trick then is to have the light visible to your left eye contain the left-eye pixels and vice versa for the right eye.
The installation appears to only require a new device be placed in front of the projector and another screen be situated between the audience and the movie theater screen. It sounds simple enough, but with so many 3D technologies out there it doesn't sound like a cure-all just yet.
Although Real D is far and away the most popular 3D theater technology available, there still exist several other options, like Dolby's Digital 3D, which use a different form of 3D projection. Was this adaptation used on Real D or another type of 3D? Will it work on all forms including those that don't use polarization to project a 3D image?
Devices like Nintendo's 3DS are perfect examples of situations where glasses-less 3D is possible, but the device itself is built with specific instructions. A pre-determined viewing angle must be achieved at all times or else the entire 3D effect is lost. There are definitely ideal places to sit in theaters – sections where this glasses-less 3D would be at its optimal level – but what about the front row or the side sections?
These are all just hypothetical problems that theater owners could run into, but one of the major problems with this new technology is its ability to only project a low-res image. It's something that could be fixed with tinkering, but shows that the tech is still not ready for widespread testing.
Still, the prospect of ditching glasses in favor of a crisper unhindered 3D image will likely have moviegoers intrigued.