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Technology Showcase: 3D Displays

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

New innovations bring depth to a wide range of presentations.

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There are already flatpanels planned for release this year that have this capability built-in so the outboard processor can be dispensed with. In Japan, cablecaster BS 11 has been broadcasting multiple 3D broadcasts every day, and there have been several live 3D broadcasting experiments domestically — including the FedEx BCS National Championship game between the University of Florida and the University of Oklahoma shown on Jan. 8 in more than 80 converted movie theaters.

Many think that 3D will not become a widely accepted medium until those special glasses can be dispensed with altogether, and although there have been some clever strides toward that goal, none has been widely accepted so far by the marketplace. Referred to as “autostereoscopic,” these glasses-free displays use sophisticated rendering algorithms to project stereo pairs of views coming out of the screens. These can even be created by overlays placed on top of conventional LCD panels when assisted by third-party processing systems.

The first autostereoscopic, or glasses-free, 3D displays could only produce five to seven views separated by either lenticular lenses or parallax barriers. This meant the illusion would be lost unless the viewer maintained a limited, fixed viewing angle. This relegated the displays to a novelty niche of digital signage or very specialized engineering applications. A great deal of advancement has been made in this arena, however, and the best of the current autostereoscopic designs with up to 46 views reveal the potential eye-candy appeal of this approach.

With this facet of the display industry in its infancy, the sales growth of 3D in the pro AV realm is difficult to track. However, although many market researchers foresee a reduction in predicted sales for conventional, 2D flatpanel displays this year, it is worth noting that Insight Media — a publishing and consulting firm focused on the display industry — forecasts the expected sales of 3D-ready and 3DTV units to soar to 28,340,000 by 2012 from 274,000 in 2007.

So here is a look at the leading 3D display offerings that major manufacturers consider relevant to corporate installations and not necessarily limited to just engineering/scientific applications. In general, that means these displays are usually larger than desktop displays and can be seen comfortably by multiple viewers. You might want to keep in mind that many insiders predict the first killer app for 3D will be in videogaming, so who could resist putting an eye-catching 3D display in a boardroom, training class, or conference area — wherever harried business people gather to learn, work, or play?

To convert any of its ALM LCD panels into a 3D display, AKIRA has produced a 3D autostereoscopic display parallax barrier overlay for the ALM series of 46in., 52in., 70in., 82in., and larger screens. Currently producing eight views, with more than 21 views in development, this autostereoscopic display can actually be used on either LCD or plasma screens with AKIRA's own 3D algorithm. On top of that, image manipulation is made possible without the use of a mouse or a keyboard when using AKIRA's touchscreen display system with advanced IR image sensors. With the use of unique Multi-Point-Touch (MPT) technology, this 3D overlay is actually capable of transforming viewers into controllers.

3D was seen throughout the January Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. One of the most interesting autostereoscopic offerings was the 3DHD-40, which was developed by a French company new to the United States, Alioscopy. This is the same display that also won the Best Buzz award at InfoComm 08. Alioscopy's 3DHD-40, a 40in. design based on NEC Multeos M40 multifunction LCD panels, supports both 2D and 3D content in full HD resolution (1920×1080p). Standard video can be shown on the 3DHD-40 as well as specific 3D content that is rendered with typical 3D software such as Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, NewTek Lightwave 3D, or Softimage XSI. The Alioscopy display uses eight interleaved images to produce its glasses-free 3D effect created by the off-axis projection method using asymmetric camera-viewing cones. To accommodate the offset, the lenticular lens on the 3DHD-40 is rotated so that it runs diagonally across the screen rather than vertically.

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