A news release last week from Dolby and Philips sent me on a mini-rant about PR that is full of grandiosity and devoid of substance.
It was announcing new glasses-free 3D tech to be shown at the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas this week, and there are now pix and vids coming in that show it and help explain a little more – though not a lot – about what it is.
Dolby is working with Philips to manufacture the displays, which use a sheet of undulated plastic to deflect pixels in various directions — there are 26 different viewing angles in all. Because the image is being sent in so many directions at once, the display has to be incredibly high-resolution to look good (the prototype was a quad-HD TV), which is why Dolby reps said the same impressive viewing angles are going to be harder to achieve on smaller devices like smartphones. The companies are waiting for the higher-res displays to be more mainstream, and less expensive.
So it is an overlay, like a touch overlay on a panel.
It sounds like that’s about the only obstacle, though, and based on what we saw the technology is very much ready for public consumption. Dolby was also showing its 3D tech on a handful of smartphones and tablets, along with Dolby software that allows you to control the depth of the 3D effect; what looks good from ten feet away can overwhelm your eyes from one foot while you hold your phone, and in the company’s demo being able to scale back the effect made a huge difference in comfort.
Now bear in mind a 4K display is twice the resolution as 1080HD, so it is going to look pretty spanking good anyway. But the video and the crowd around the monitor (usually when I see people around glasses-free 3D they stop, look, shrug and move on) suggests the experience is actually pretty good. The problem is that 4K displays, which are needed to make this look good, are probably at least a year out from being more than prototypes or the very expensive limited release toys for Russian arms dealers and Kazakh oil barons.
But … this tech might finally make glasses-free 3D more than a novelty in the consumer market and in ad displays. If it can be viewed from wide angles and the image really does pop, and the depth is controllable, then maybe there really is something in this.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than 13 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia.