BOSTON "There's no reason this can't be mass produced for under $5,000," said Allan Sullivan, president of LightSpace Technologies (www.LightSpaceTech.com), standing next to his now-$50,000 self-contained LightSpace DepthCube display at the Society for Information Display's annual conference last week. From a "wow" perspective, this was the most amazing, and tantalizing, of all the 3D exhibits, because it requires no special viewing glasses, and provides true 3D. The display consists of twenty LCD panels sandwiched together, forming a box a few inches deep.
The image is projected onto these panels. The LCDs themselves are like single-pixel displays that serve as projection screens for an ultra-fast DLP rear projector running at approximately 1,000 frames per second. That fast speed is required to individually refresh each of the 20 "planes" of the 3D image, and keep the total frame rate looking like moving video (1000 divided by 20 equals 50 frames per second.)
The full-color demo, slightly on the yucky side, revealed medical CAT-scan type imagery of a human brain. Why not show something more entertaining, like a 3D Hollywood movie from the 1950s? (the golden age of 3D filmmaking). "I can't do it, I need the z-axis!" Sullivan said.
Indeed, while most 3D systems revolve around a form of stereo imaging, in which two distinct images are separately delivered to each eye, this 20-screen no-glasses display is "true" 3D, meaning that you can look around objects by changing your perspective. It's perfect for medical imaging, such as CAT and MRI scans, where 3D is created by a series of 2-dimensional slices, but would not work with film and video materials that are simply shot with two cameras, one for each eye. For video games, however, where the images are generated electronically, adding z-axis information (depth) is relatively easy -- some PC games already have this capability built in. If this display has mass market potential beyond medicine and military applications, it will be with video gaming, beginning in arcades.
Considering some of the 153 members of the new 3D Consortium (www.3dc.gr.jp/english/) are among the biggest names in displays, including Sharp, Sony, Sanyo, Philips, JVC, Samsung, and LG Electronics, their booth at SID was tiny, and featured products from some of the smallest players, including the garage-startup For3D (www.for3d.com), whose innovative software can process any ordinary two-dimensional video and create simulated 3D. The demo included scenes from "The Wizard of Oz," but unfortunately, the viewing system for this not-quite-completed product was in monochrome, using separate red and blue lens filters for each eye.
Also at the 3D Consortium booth were new no-goggles LCD displays from Sharp (who has been marketing laptop computers with this technology for some time, see Laptop Shows Games, Movies In 3D), and a new "Depth fused 3D" (DFD) screen technology from NTT based on changing the luminance ratio between two overlapped 2-D images.
Elsewhere at SID, Philips announced a new 3D cell phone display (see Philips Shows 3D Cell Phone Display). Like the Sharp laptop screen, it's based on lenticular lens technology -- an array of transparent lenses fixed on a standard LCD panel.
There were also several 3D exhibits based on wearing polarized glasses, the most impressive looking of which was based on two JVC D-ILA (LCoS) projectors, using 3D images of space created by the University of Iowa. With 1080p HD resolution, this seemed like one that you might truly want to watch for hours (at least if you like space travel.)
Other innovative 3D displays (more accurately called stereo viewing), also requiring special polarized glasses, included NuVision (www.nuvision3d.com), whose "passive LCD stereo" add-on screen attaches to an existing monitor; and PolarScreens, of Quebec, whose cleverly simple system for "mixing" left and right polarized images, using a half-mirror (similar to a television teleprompter), promises stereoscopic 3D viewing at very affordable prices.