All 3D TVs – be it “active” or “passive” – currently available on the market require viewers to wear compatible 3D glasses before they can watch 3D content on screen, but a number of surveys have suggested that compulsory 3D eyewear is one of the main factors stopping consumers from purchasing a 3D TV in the first place. Toshiba is certainly keen to tackle this problem head-on: the Japanese conglomerate has launched two new glasses-free 3D TV displays, the world’s first to be up for sale to the public.
In a press conference held one day before the official opening of the annual CEATEC (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) consumer electronics trade show in Japan, Toshiba unveiled its GL1 series of autostereoscopic 3D TV that does away with 3D glasses altogether. A lenticular sheet in front of these televisions – together with Toshiba’s video processing algorithm – produces 9 parallax images from each 2D frame, which are delivered to the viewers’ right and left eyes in a slightly overlapped fashion. The viewers’ brains then “fuses” these superimposed images to create an illusion of 3-dimensional depth of field.
However, present limitations in autostereoscopic 3D technology mean that it is confined to smaller screen sizes for now. The Toshiba GL1 series, for example, is available only in 12 inches (the Toshiba 12GL1 with a native 3D resolution of 466 x 350) and 20 inches (the Toshiba 20GL1 with a native 3D resolution of 1280 x 720). Both the Toshiba 12GL1 and Toshiba 20GL1 are LCD panels illuminated by LED backlight and powered by the Cell processor famously used in the Sony PS3 (Playstation 3) console.
Of course, the inherent nature of autostereoscopic 3D displays unfortunately dictates a narrow sweet spot for the 3D effects to be noticeable. Toshiba has worked hard to improve the viewing angles on the 12GL1 and 20GL1 3D TVs somewhat, but it’s still a rather disappointing 40 degrees, i.e. 20 degrees off-axis to the left or right. Toshiba also specifies a viewing distance of 25 and 35 inches for the 12GL1 and 20GL1 respectively.
The Toshiba 12GL1 and Toshiba 20GL1 will be launched in December in Japan at an eye-watering price of 120,000 yen (around £900) and 240,000 yen (around £1800) respectively, but there is currently no plan to release the models in other countries. While developing a commercially available glasses-free 3D TV is a first step towards the right direction, Toshiba itself concedes that an affordable, large-sized (40 inches or bigger) autostereoscopic 3D TV display which requires no 3D glasses is still quite a few years away.