Published in Graphics

MIT comes up with new 3D without specs

Transitional before the real holo deck

The Camera Culture group at the MIT Media Lab is developing a new 3D video projection system that doesn't require glasses and provides different users different perspective angles of the same object.

According to an MIT press release the team sees its development as a transitional system that sits between current technologies and true holographic video. The MIT device is mechanically simple and doesn't require elaborate installations, as well as being cheaper than conventional holographic systems of comparable quality.

Its system creates an actual shift in perspective for multiple viewers looking at the image from different angles, as if were looking at real objects. In addition, it provides better resolution and contrast than conventional 2D video. It works by using a projector that has a pair of flat panels of liquid-crystal modulators that act like tiny liquid-crystal displays (LCD) set between the backlight source and the lens.

The first bank of LCDs produces light patterns at particular angles. This pattern passes through the second bank, but only at these angles. These then pass through a series of lenses that are arranged in the same manner as a Keplerian telescope. The patterns then pass through a transparent projection screen made up of lines of vertical lenses. These resolve the patterns into a 3D image that shifts as one moves from one of eight points of view to another.

The image is refreshed 240 times every second, which is less than that of modern televisions, but ten times that of standard-speed film. Needless to say it has a few problems. The biggest is that it requires a lot of bandwidth to work, but it also opens the possibility of the system displaying ultra-high resolution video.

The team sees the technology as having applications in collaborative design and medical imaging as well as in entertainment.


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