Four camera system could mean end for 3D glasses

Engineers have developed a four camera system which will allow live transmissions of glasses-free 3D.

With 3D failing to set the world alight despite the best attempts of manufacturers to convince us that we need it in our lives and our sitting rooms, glasses-free offers some hope for the technology.

While it is currently necessary to don the rather annoying spectacles in order to watch 3D programmes, it is hoped that in the next few years the will be obsolete.  In fact many think that the popularity of the technology actually hinges on glasses-free.

With this in mind, much work is going on to ensure that 3D technologies support glasses-free developments.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Telecommunications have devised a system where it will be possible to view 3D footage without the cumbersome glasses, with live transmissions also possible.

For a standard 3D display autostereoscopic displays coated with special optical foils are needed to create a different view for each eye. But to allow for different viewing positions,  displays must use from five to 10 different views of an image, and they say that this number will be even higher in the future.

Normally stereo productions have two views, from which depth information is extracted before transmission. However the researchers have been using a four camera system to provide the various viewing points.

This is problematic in that it takes a long time to calibrate such a complex stereo production, which can take days.

Now though they are able to reduce this timeframe to around 30 minutes with a new assistance system.  This is done by figuring out in real time which detects features in each picture and positions all of the angles of the cameras accordingly, calibrating so that objects can be focused on.

While some small faults in focus can remain, these can easily be fixed electronically using a digital zoom.  This is done in real time opening up the possibility for real time live transmissions.

Clearly four cameras worth of information is a lot to process and send in a transmission, so the team are also working on a video decoding system which will compressing the huge amounts of data.

Though the four camera system is at prototype stage at this point it means that chucking the 3D glasses in the bin might not be so far away.