MIT delivers glasses-free 3D to every seat in the cinema


Glasses-free 3D cinema is one step closer after a team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science presented an approach that covered every seat in a theatre. The prototype, called Cinema 3D, uses an array of lenses and mirrors to deliver the 3D effect to an audience.

On the MIT website Wojciech Matusik, an MIT professor and a co-author of the paper presenting the technology, said: “Existing approaches to glasses-free 3D require screens whose resolution requirements are so enormous that they are completely impractical. This is the first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3-D on a large scale.”

The lead researcher on the paper is Weizmann PhD Netalee Efrat with co-authors including MIT research technician Mike Foshey; former CSAIL postdoc Piotr Didyk; and Weizmann researcher professor Anat Levin. Efrat presented the paper at Siggraph computer-graphics conference in Anaheim, California that was held July 34 to 28.

Researchers claim that a key part of developing the system was the insight that people in cinemas move their heads over a very small range of angles, limited by the width of their seat.

Cinema 3D encodes multiple parallax barriers in one display so each viewer sees a parallax barrier tailored to their position. That range of views is then replicated across the theatre by a series of mirrors and lenses within Cinema 3D’s special optics system.

More development is required to make the prototype - that requires 50 sets of mirrors and lenses and is barely larger than a pad of paper – commercially viable. However, the technology is not limited to cinema applications with MIT suggesting uses in digital signage.

Matusik said the next step is to build a larger version of the display and to further refine the optics to continue to improve the image resolution.

He added: “It remains to be seen whether the approach is financially feasible enough to scale up to a full-blown theatre. But we are optimistic that this is an important next step in developing glasses-free 3-D for large spaces like movie theatres and auditoriums.”

This work was funded by the Israel Science Foundation and the European Research Council.