MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science have demonstrated a display that lets audiences watch 3-D films in a movie theatre without extra eyewear.
Dubbed “Cinema 3D,” the prototype uses a special array of lenses and mirrors to enable viewers to watch a 3-D movie from any seat in a theater.
While the researchers warn that the system isn’t market-ready, they are optimistic that future versions could push the technology to a place where theatres would be able to offer glasses-free alternatives for 3-D movies.
Glasses-free 3-D already exists, but not in a way that scales to movie theatres. Traditional methods for TV sets use a series of slits in front of the screen (a “parallax barrier”) that allows each eye to see a different set of pixels, creating a simulated sense of depth.
But parallax barriers have to be at a consistent distance from the viewer and this does not work for big theatres.
Cinema 3D encodes multiple parallax barriers into one display, such that each viewer sees a parallax barrier tailored to their position. That range of views is then replicated across the theater by a series of mirrors and lenses within Cinema 3D’s special optics system.
Cinema 3D’s prototype requires 50 sets of mirrors and lenses, and yet is just barely larger than a pad of paper. But, in theory, the technology could work in any context in which 3-D visuals would be shown to multiple people at the same time, such as billboards or storefront advertisements.