Movie-goers, rejoice! MIT scientists have developed a new screen technology that may allow you to watch 3D movies in theaters without wearing those annoying glasses. The new technology, named Cinema 3D, uses a special array of lenses and mirrors to enable viewers to watch 3D films from any seat in a theater. Although 3D movies can offer unique perspectives and experiences, one major drawback is the cumbersome eyewear that moviegoers typically have to wear.
In a new paper, a team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science have demonstrated a display that lets audiences watch 3D films in a movie theater without extra eyewear. “Existing approaches to glasses-free 3D require screens whose resolution requirements are so high that they are completely impractical,” says MIT professor Wojciech Matusik. “This is the first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3-D on a large scale,”Matusik said.
Glasses-free 3D already exists, but not in a way that scales to movie theaters. 3D glass free TV sets use a technology called a “parallax barrier” that use series of slits in front of the screen that allows each eye to see a different set of pixels, creating a simulated sense of depth. The problem with its application for TVs is that a viewer needs to be sat right in front of the screen, and at a distinct distance.
The method isn’t practical on a larger scale and comes at a cost of lower image-resolution.To recreate this experience on a large screen, the team designed new physical projectors that cover the entire angular range of the audience.
The key insight with Cinema 3D is that people in movie theaters move their heads only over a very small range of angles, limited by the width of their seat.So how method works is that, Cinema 3D encodes multiple parallax barriers in a single display, which allows each movie-goer to see a parallax barrier tailored to their position – regardless if they are in the front row or all the way in the back. The angle reduction elements improve the vertical resolution as they bend the rays emerging from each row of viewers towards the vertical lenslets, into a smaller angular range,’ researchers share in the published study.
Sadly, we shouldn’t expect Cinema 3D any time soon. The only current working model is about the size of an iPad, and it requires a lot of mirrors and lenses. “It remains to be seen whether the approach is financially feasible enough to scale up to a full-blown theater,” says Matusik. “But we are optimistic that this is an important next step in developing glasses-free 3D for large spaces like movie theaters and auditoriums.”