3D video, despite never really succeeding as a consumer-level product, still has some success today in movie theaters, as more and more big-budget movies are released in 3D to try and squeeze a few more dollars out of patrons. Some movie studios even tried to turn 2D movies to 3D to reproduce classic movies in 3D effect and bring the 3D versions to theatre, such as Titanic. But there are drawbacks to 3D movies: cinematically, the polarizing 3D glasses also result in darker, less vibrant perception of the movie. Based on these, glasses-free 3D movie viewing technology has been required.
Though glasses-free 3D viewing technology has already available, it relies on screens with massive resolution requirements. Therefore it’s impractical to recreate the big-screen movie theatre experience. However, the glass-free 3D movie experience might shortly come into theatre since researchers have developed 3D movie screens that don't require 3D glasses.
The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), together with Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, has developed a prototype display, which lets audiences enjoy a 3D movie in a movie theatre without the need of pesky 3D glasses. This new technology adopts a special collection of lenses and mirrors that allow users to enjoy the 3D viewing experience from any seat in the theatre.
Compared with the previous glasses-free 3D viewing technologies that relies on massive resolution requirements, this new glasses-free 3D viewing technology is the "first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3D on a large scale," explains Wojciech Matusik, the MIT professor who co-authored the paper on the technology.
It would be much easier for people to get the 3D movie experience with home theatre system than in cinema, as viewers could only sit at a consistent distance at home to simulate the sense of 3D depth while in cinema viewers are sitting at various angles and distances. This requires cinema team to create new, physical projectors that would cover the entire theatre, and try their best to not sacrifice any image resolution, as image resolution is also key to 3D viewing experience.
Cinema 3D encodes various parallax barriers in a single display, which allows an individual viewer - regardless of position in the theatre - to see a parallax barrier specific to their position. With this new glasses-free 3D viewing technology, the range of views is now replicated across the entire space using mirrors and lenses. Therefore anyone in any position of a cinema could get nice 3D viewing experience without 3D glasses.
The technology is not currently available on the market, but further development and future versions of the technology as it evolves could allow theatres to offer a glasses-free movie experience as more filmmakers employ 3D technology.