MANHASSET, N.Y. Toshiba Corp. announced Friday (April 15) new display technology that allows 3-D images to be viewed on a flatbed display without any need for special glasses.
Toshiba has applied the 3-D technology to 24- and 15.4- inch displays with 480 x 300 pixels, a resolution 1.5 times that found in the company's conventional 3-D displays, allowing viewers to see high quality stereoscopic images.
According to Toshiba, its technology enables the viewer to experience 3-D images that stand out several centimeters from the display's surface. The technology opens up new application for 3-D displays, including arcade games, e-learning, simulations of buildings and landscapes, and even 3-D menus in restaurants.
Toshiba's technology is the latest attempt at 3-D displays, which have been in development for several years but so far have not found widespread commercial acceptance. Among other suppliers, Sharp developed a notebook display two years ago that allows 3-D viewing with the naked eye.
3-D displays that do not require visual aids work by projecting slightly different images to each eye, a form of visual stereo. The displays consist of micro-lenses that control the direction of light emission, and supporting software that creates images. However, mainstream 3-D technology is limited in terms of the viewing angle at which it can display 3-D images, and the images are also tiring to view.
Toshiba's technology employs an integral imaging system that reproduces light beams similar of those produced by a real object, not its visual representation. This overcomes the main problem with a flatbed display distance. The difference in the distance from the eye to the center of a display, and from the eye to the display's edges and corners, is greater for a flatbed display than for a standard upright display.
"Viewers see the light coming from the virtual object. That is natural, easy to see and does not tire eyes like conventional 3D images," said Yuzo Hirayama, senior research Scientist of the Humancetric laboratory at Toshiba's corporate research & development center.
"Conventional 3D systems place priority rather on the easiness of content production [that requires only two cameras], but this system is 'human centric', said Hirayama. "Even it requires more work in content production, it gives natural 3D images," he added.
To create the demonstration images, the researchers used 12 to 16 cameras to shoot an object from different angle. Therefore, viewers can see another side of the object by moving their position as if it were in a real world. At present, the optimum viewing angle is 30 degrees.
To reproduce natural 3-D images on the flatbed display, Toshiba developed proprietary software that utilizes 10 or more views of an object (the current prototype takes 12 or 16), either live-action images or CG images, and processes them into a single 3-D image with a wide viewing angle. It runs on the graphics card and also was implemented in a dedicated LSI chip.
Toshiba's near-term plans to refine the technology include integrating a touch-screen control. The company expects to commercialize products based on the technology within two years, delivering both the display hardware and software as a total solution.
Toshiba intends to make available the beta version system using a 15.4-inch panel in June to potential customers for evaluation. The display will be demonstrated at the The 1st Display 2005 International FPD Expo, April 20 to April 22 in Tokyo