Glasses-less 3DTV sounds like the greatest invention ever, right? But secretly, I think we were all worried it would look quite rubbish. After a lengthy session with Sharp's parallax barrier technology, I can say chin up! It's not that bad.
Sharp wouldn't say whether their parallax barrier technology's actually being used in Nintendo's 3DS, but from what I saw today it's very similar - and Sharp's going to do extremely well sticking these panels in phones, cameras, laptops and tablets, I think.
Two differently sized panels were on display at their stand at IFA, with the 10.6-inch 3D LCD offering 1280x768 resolution when playing 2D content, or 640x768 in 3D. They claim that the optimal distance is around 50cm, something I confirmed by standing a metre away, and then just inches away. This is very much a technology for personal use, for being used in a tablet or netbook.
The smaller display measures 3.8 inches and was very much demonstrating how a smartphone such as the one we caught wind of weeks ago would work. Playing 2D content would render in 800x480 resolution, with 3D content playing back at 400x480. Optimal distance is shorter at 30cm - which makes sense, considering the size of the panel.
When asked about the resolution, the product manager I spoke to said that it boiled down to battery life: Specifically, if they increase resolution to 1080p for 3D content, the battery life would be extremely poor, and that wasn't something they are willing to compromise on at the moment.
However, they did say they're not limited by size. 42-inch TV sets are entirely possible - but whether you'd want a faux 3D TV set is another matter entirely. The smaller panels on show today had quite a bit of flicker when you moved your head left and right (it flickered approximately five times when moving my head, for just the smaller-sized panel).
At least parallax barrier technology would be cheaper without those pricey glasses... though that's a very small consolation when you can't move your head more than an inch before the image shifts.
Launch periods were certainly not mentioned, with Sharp only saying products with the displays would go on sale when they're ready. But their smartphone-sized panels are most definitely not going to be relegated to Asia, where their smartphones sell well. We can expect to see phones with 3D displays in the US, Europe and other parts of the world - but whether that's under Sharp's name or someone else's, remains to be seen.
Interestingly, they also showed off their 3D camera, presumably using the module we wrote about here (though there wasn't any 3D video on offer.) There was nary a detail to be told about the camera, however, I did snap a few photos of the camera itself and the screen with a photo (of yours truly), though it's obviously difficult to see the 3D effect through a photo. Especially when it's so low-res, grainy and dark, as the photo in the gallery below will demonstrate.
Now I'm no fan of traditional 3D. It makes my eyes feel like they're about to pop from their sockets, and I just don't see the point in buying a set (unless you're a gamer). These Sharp panels are so much fun though, and didn't give me the same headache/nausea I experience with passive or active glasses.
The larger model was touchscreen and damn responsive too — a lot better than I was expecting. Playing on a loop, a pop-up book-like video had dancing Three Little Pigs and other nursery rhymes which you could control with a touch of the finger.
It was blurry, however. Not as sharp as traditional 3DTV, and while it was a lot brighter, the resolution was a lot poorer. I'm not too sure about the usages of such displays, but the screen on the camera was terrific, displaying photos you had taken just seconds before. It could render Fujifilm's 3D cameras absolutely useless, if the pricepoint was good enough.
That's the thing. While the technology was brilliant in practice, it's no replacement for true HD on anything larger than a laptop - anything smaller, and it's a great novelty, but not something you'd want to pay too much extra for.