Thursday, January 19, 2012

StreamTV’s Ultra-D: Wide-viewing-angle 3D without glasses

At CES this year, a number of 3D without glasses solutions were shown by various manufacturers. Some more developed than others. StreamTV's Ultra-D appears to be well along in development and should be visible in the marketplace in 2012 or 13.

This review from Extremetech.com By on January 18, 2012:


"Until now, the most common way to achieve 3D viewing without glasses has been with specially designed displays using what is called a “parallax barrier” — where any viewer to the left of the display’s center sees the image recorded by the left camera (and meant for the left eye) and any viewer to the right sees the right-side image (meant for the right eye). As you can imagine, this only works if the person viewing the screen sits exactly where the parallax barrier is set up to divide the image. As a result, it works well for personal display screens like the one on the Fujifilm and Panasonic 3D cameras, and the LG Thrill and HTC Evo 3D smartphones, which allow capturing and viewing 3D. But a parallax barrier doesn’t work well when you have more than one person in the audience, or if you want to move around at all while watching the media — since it only performs properly if the viewer is directly in front of the direction for which the barrier is tuned."

StreamTV prototype display showing multi-viewer 3D without glasses or face tracking. CES 2012 Images by David Cardinal"Several companies are using this year’s CES to launch new solutions for multi-viewer 3D without glasses. StreamTV, best known for the Elocity tablet, rolled out an impressive platform called Ultra-D, which allows not just autostereoscopic (without glasses) viewing of existing 3D content, but realtime conversion of conventional 2D images and video into its 3D format. On paper Ultra-D slices through the two major bottlenecks hampering 3D very nicely. By having displays that are autostereoscopic no glasses are required, and by allowing realtime conversion to 3D, suddenly a near infinite amount of content is available."

"The Ultra-D system requires quite a bit of heavy lifting on the hardware and software side. Existing LCD, LED and OLED panels can be used, but an additional microlens layer is required for the displays, as well as new firmware and software. StreamTV is aggressively licensing its platform to makers of TVs, tablets, and smartphones, with the promise of 42-inch and 55-inch LED TVs available in retail by this summer. The Ultra-D TVs will be bundled with StreamTV’s SeeCube, which enables the realtime conversion of 2D to 3D and of traditional 3D content — designed for use with glasses — into autostereoscopic content for display on an Ultra-D device. Tablets and digital picture frames are also on tap, although details haven’t been disclosed.
StreamTV is fairly tight-lipped about how the system actually works, but from watching a variety of their prototypes and talking to some of their researchers, it turns out that instead of the traditional glasses-free solution of having two images — one for the left eye and one for the right — then showing one to each eye — Ultra-D creates 9 different images, each with a unique angle on the scene. The specially built display has an array of microlenses in front of the conventional LCD that project each image out in a series of overlapping cones. As a result each eye sees a combination of as many as 4 different images — all with a slightly different perspective — and is responsible for integrating the total into a coherent picture. Since your eyes are a few inches apart, at most viewing positions your left eye sees a different set of 4 images than your right eye (in essence your right eye is moved over by one, so if your left eye sees image 2, 3, 4, 5, for example, your right eye might see images 3, 4, 5, and 6). This clever approach means that as you move around the viewing area, the image you see actually changes."

The StreamTV Ultra-D prototype looked great on original 3D source material like the 3D Superbowl, but not as good on traditionally filmed football games automatically converted to 3D."The downside of this technique is an apparently less-sharp image, and a tendency for ghosting to occur. While StreamTV downplayed both issues, refusing to discuss resolution by saying there wasn’t a 3D standard for it, and blaming any ghosting on the prototype nature of the monitors, both issues are likely to dog them through its launch later this year, at least until it can show it has solved them adequately for the marketplace. In our testing, some source material, like the Superbowl filmed in 3D, was stunning, with the experience rivaling that of a 3D TV with glasses. Other material, like conventional 2D football coverage converted to 3D, was a little disorienting and the 3D effect detracted from the viewing experience. StreamTV provides two controls, found on the TV remote, to allow for tuning or turning off the effect. One changes the apparent depth of the action in the scene, and the other controls the apparent distance of the scene from the viewer. So you can have action “pop” right in your face, or have scenes with plenty of apparent depth, off in the distance."
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