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Picture This: Digital Signage That’ll Grab You

Apr 10, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer

The 3D trend could position digital signage in a new light.

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Philips’ WOWzone displays

The wow factor of 3D could be making its way to a public display near you. Several manufacturers are beginning to deliver products that are making multiple 3D viewing zones a reality, including Philips’ WOWzone displays.

One of the overt trends emerging in both the consumer and professional entertainment industries over the past year or two has been 3D. From Sony’s 3D broadcast of the NCAA Championship football game at CES to technology manufacturers of 120Hz (and faster) DLP and LCD imaging engines that can show can show left- and right-eye images without losing resolution, 3D seems to have reached the next dimension. Even front-projection-screen manufacturers such as Da-Lite and Stewart Filmscreen are getting into the space with 3D-specific screen materials.

Yet all of those 3D options require viewers to wear some type of glasses—increasingly common are polarized glasses—in order to perceive the 3D effect. That effectively rules them out for public-display use. However, a technology with much older roots, autostereoscopic 3D, does allow viewers to experience 3D without wearing any glasses or headgear. That could translate into real reach-out-and-grab-you attention-getting in the digital-signage market.

Autostereoscopic 3D isn’t a new idea. As a kid in the 1970s, I had 3D baseball cards that would produce a 3D effect if held at the right angle, and the technique is much older than that. Cards like those used a lenticular lens, similiar to an array of miniature magnifying glasses, in front of the image to direct different colors and light in different directions so the viewer’s two eyes see a slightly different image. This yields the appearance of depth. Some cards could also produce a moving image effect by combining two images in one card and using the lens array to create multiple visual sweet spots. Physically moving the card up and down or side to side would afford a view of one image and then the other image.

It doesn’t sound like a very sophisticated technology on those baseball cards, yet it’s very similar to—if more rudimentary than—what companies such as Philips, Akira, LG, and Samsung are doing with new 3D displays that don’t require glasses or headgear. A lenticular lens in front of a dynamic LCD or plasma panel affords 3D motion video, but that’s not the only difference. The lenticular lens can also direct the different red, green, and blue subpixels that make up each individual pixel to different viewing spots, thereby decreasing the resolution loss that otherwise occurs by creating multiple images at the same time.

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