One of the most striking things about pounding the show floor at CES this year was that the future of 3DTV in the home is inevitably going to be without glasses. Prototypes from LG, Toshiba and Sony all showed that glasses-less 3D is a possibility, and in some cases, it can even look pretty good. But you're going to need to boost the resolution.
Of the three companies showcasing glasses-less 3D TV screens that I managed to find throughout the monstrosity that is CES, the Sony panels were easily the best. The reason for this is actually quite obvious when you understand how the lenticular displays work - It's all about resolution, you see. While most demo screens were just 1080p - the 46-inch and 56-inch screens from Sony were displaying 2K and 4K resolutions respectively.
Andrew Hughes, Product Specialist for Audio Visual at Sony Australia, explains why this matters:
‘Glasses-less’ or ‘lenticular’ 3D displays use lenses placed in vertical columns placed in front of the image. Half of the lens columns are aligned to be viewed by the left eye and the other half by the right eye.
The TV’s picture engine then assigns the left and right video frames from the 3D source to the left and right columns of lenses. When the viewer is directly in front of the display, only the left elements of the picture are visible to the left eye and only the right elements are visible to the right eye, which creates a 3D effect. However, if the viewer moves off-centre, the 3D effect can be lost.
Because the vertical resolution is effectively split into two separate elements, overall picture quality is compromised by almost half compared to an active shutter 3D system.”
In other words, when viewing 1080p content on a lenticular 3D display, you're essentially only seeing 960 vertical lines, which looks crap. 2K resolution is marginally better offering the equivalent of 1024 vertical lines, but 4K content (and the most impressive of Sony's prototype units) effectively offers 2048 vertical lines of resolution.
Which means that by the time glasses-less 3D televisions start to hit the market, we'll need to be seeing 4K quality Blu-rays hitting shelves. Of course, we're still a few years away before big screen lenticular displays are refined enough to become commercially viable, but here's hoping that content creators are planning ahead for this technology anyway...