Sony Joins Race For Autostereoscopic Glasses-Free 3D TV

Jonathan Sutton

Following an unconfirmed report that Toshiba are planning to bring to market a 3D TV that doesn’t require 3D glasses by the end of the year, Sony has also let slip that it is developing a glasses-free (also known as autostereoscopic) 3D TV, but is concerned about whether its innovation can deliver satisfactory 3D images at a low enough cost to make pursuing this route worthwhile.

The current batch of 3D televisions (which has been heavily pushed by various TV makers since the beginning of the year) needs viewers to wear 3D glasses to enjoy 3D content. Along with high prices and a relative lack of available 3D material, compulsory eyewear has been deemed as one of the factors that dampen consumers’ enthusiasm towards 3D technology. Sometimes bulky and uncomfortable (especially for owners who already wear prescription glasses), these 3D glasses also adds extra cost for each pair required for every family member who wishes to watch 3D material at the same time.

Autostereoscopic 3D displays work by emitting separate rays of light at different angles, therefore delivering two images to the left and the right eyes, which are then fused by the brain to create the illusion of 3D effect without the need for 3D glasses. Technically viewers have to be positioned in a sweet spot so that they can receive the correct 3D images intended for the left and the right eyes before they can truly appreciate the resultant 3D effect.

On a portable autostereoscopic 3D display such as the forthcoming Nintendo 3DS, this wouldn’t pose too much of a problem, as viewing distance and angle can be adjusted pretty easily since the device is a handheld, but on a large screen HDTV finding the optimal sweet spot for an engrossing 3D experience is going to be harder. According to Sony’s senior vice president Yoshihisa Ishida, the Japanese consumer electronics giant is ironing out the technological kinks, and also deliberating on pricing before releasing these glasses-free 3D TV to the masses.

He admitted that watching 3D without glasses is simply more convenient, even though its Sony Computer Entertainment video gaming subsidiary had previously defended the use of 3D glasses in conjunction with the 3D capabilities of the Sony PS3 when pitted against the glasses-free solution offered by Nintendo 3DS.