Glasses-Free 3D Fails To Wow At CES 2011

If glasses-free 3D is truly the future of TV, you wouldn’t know by the handful of companies that are showing off the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

LG put their glasses-free TV right out on the demo floor. Unfortunately, the company also had to put a white line in the carpet to show onlookers where to stand. And even then you must stand dead-center to get a semi-decent 3D effect. Standing off to the side even by just a few inches reveals the limitations of glasses-free tech.

Over at the Toshiba booth, they made glasses-free 3D the centerpiece — literally — of their large booth. Convention-goers formed long, snaking lines to enter the black box housing several of the glasses-free sets.

And even though the set-up of the booth succeeded in drawing interested parties, what awaited inside was a letdown. While the Toshiba TV is viewable from a few more angles than the LG set, it still wouldn’t work for more than three people sitting very close together on the couch.

On a more positive note, one of my colleagues at Consumer Reports got her hands on the Nintendo 3DS portable gaming system. “The graphics were clear, and the 3D effects added a new dimension–pun intended–to the gameplay,” she wrote.

Companies like Samsung, RCA, JVC and Panasonic decided against bringing glasses-free technology. Sharp only demonstrated it on two prototypes for portable devices (one tablet-sized and one with a 3.8″ screen).

Speaking to Consumerist, reps for the companies that refrained from showing off glasses-free 3D voiced the opinion that the technology will someday be standard, but that it hasn’t been developed enough to sell to the retail market.

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  1. sykl0ps says:

    I think this tech might be better suited for computer monitors and video games. Usually there’s only one person sitting in front of the screen for video games. Games in actual 3D without glasses would be really neat, and I think gamers would be more willing to buy the tech.

    • rpm773 says:

      Agreed. I have no interest in 3d TV, but I would be interested 3d gaming, or a 3d GUI desktop.

      And I suppose a 3d CLI might be interesting to look at in its own special way.

      • wrjohnston91283 says:

        many companies can’t get 2D user interfaces correct. I’d hate to see what companies start doing to 3D – my guess is many would add it for marketing purposes, and it would end up making the product worse.

        Speaking of horrible user interfaces, I just got Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 – I played it for 15 minutes, it was horrible, it crashed, and now it’s listed on half.com. They added 3d effects which caused horrible lag and added little to the game, and the UI was awful.

        • rpm773 says:

          I just looked up RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 on YouTube.

          Now I shall go vomit.

        • Shadowfax says:

          “Microsoft Word3D!”

          You’re right about RCT3. Total letdown. People basically wanted RCT1 with the ability to ride the coasters. That’s what RCT2 should have been (but was only a full-priced expansion pack for the original). No one wanted a fully 3d interface with weird-looking people for RCT3, which is why we haven’t seen an RCT4.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Yes, definitely. I want a 3-D capable monitor without the need for glasses, for my games. Especially since a good graphics card can *already* provide anaglyph (red/cyan) 3-D effects if you have the glasses. But anaglyph gives me a headache, where polarized lenses do not–my eyes do not relax enough to ignore the color contrast, so I am constantly shifting focus between eyes.

  2. Kaonashi says:

    This was definitely disappointing to read. I’ve always guessed glasses 3d tech would be viable both technologically and in price range for consumers in about 10 years but it seems it may be more like 20 before consumers actually see and afford anything other than whatever half-baked sets come-out before the technology is perfected and the price drops.

  3. Donathius says:

    I went to CES last year and saw one glasses-less 3D setup. Honestly it was kind of painful. Hopefully the big guys have made some good improvement. I saw the limited viewing angle, and the demo boxes also had horrible flicker – it was really bizarre to see LCDs flicker (although I’m one of those odd people that is extremely sensitive to screen flicker).

  4. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    My prediction still is that ‘glasses’ that paint the retinas with stereoscopic video will be the future. No need for a giant screen TV. Each person can have a personal TiVo, watch their own choice of programming, pause the show and answer their 3D mobile phone right from the glasses, and slow-mo that exciting part at their own pace, right on the train to work (that is if they can’t actually use telepresence for their job).

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Glasses like you describe, while perhaps not in 3d, have been around for many decades (see NES gaming goggles). They’re HORRIBLE for your eyes. As in, they needed an automatic timer to make you get up and do something else because you’d go blind otherwise.

      • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

        I have no idea what you are referring to, but your eyes don’t care if the light is coming from a little TFT or from chair that a florescent bulb is lighting. A photon is a photon. Watching TV with the lights out, sitting too close, or just plain using your own hand will not make you go blind. Wait a sec, are you talking about the Doom / Quake problem where some people get queasy watching?

  5. jp7570-1 says:

    We are not there yet and it may take a few years for the technology to catch up to the demand for glasses-free 3D. (And to be quite honest, many of the existing “glasses 3D” images seem too artifical – characters whose feet don’t touch the ground, etc.)

    Maybe this delay will allow realistic 3D content to be developed, because without content the tech just becomes a niche market. James Cameron and others may be commended for their advancements on the tech side, but there is still MUCH more to be done.

    For instance, if 3D was really a replacement for 2D HD, then how would local news programs, reality shows, sitcoms, commercials, etc. be able to immediately capitalize upon the new tech? Answer – they can’t and won’t for quite some time. If you thought the cost of replacing your relatively new flat panel would be a lot, imagine how much every network, studio, and affiliate would have to pay for 3D cameras and equipment.

    I remain skeptical that 3D will ever be more than a novel (and often poorly executed) feature used to lure customers back into the theaters.

  6. Levk says:

    I really hope this gimmick ends soon, 3D was only good a hand full of times so far and really useless in other areas. It just seems the more of the push to it the more people leave it. They should just go for the holographic tech

  7. OSAM says:

    The only way they’ll ever get true glasses-less 3D is with holograms. And that just isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

  8. kc2idf says:

    It wasn’t that long ago that rear-projection TVs were also plagued by a very narrow viewing angle. I am confident that they will solve this one, also.

    Really what it comes down to is whether the manufacturer is willing to present something for the sake of presenting something to show that there is progress, or whether they would choose to refrain from showing anything until there is something really good to show.

    Both approaches have their advantages and problems.

    Showing prototype product gets vital feedback from customers at the risk of alienating the impatient.

    Holding on until you have something good makes sure the product is decent before release, but leaves your engineers operating in a vacuum.

  9. mbd says:

    > Maybe this delay will allow realistic 3D content to be developed

    Close the 60 “realistic” live action 3D movies were produced back in the 1950′s for the dual projection polarized 3D process. That means that there exists separate left/right elements for these films that can accurately be mastered into any digital 3D.

    As to glasses free 3D, I don’t think a practical true 3D system is in the near future. The problem the developers need to overcome is that for actual 3D to work, you need to control the images that each eye sees independently to simulate how our eyes receive real images.

    We do not “see” objects, we “see” light reflecting off of, or obstructed by objects. Via the separation distance of our eyes, this reflected light is picked up by our eyes at slightly different angles allowing our brains to perceive depth. While present technology can simulate this without glasses, and has been able to do so for many years, it still requires a very limited viewing area and conditions. I have read nothing to indicate that this limitation has been overcome.

  10. Kevinsky says:

    can’t wait till 3D TVs go the way of the laser disk

  11. jamar0303 says:

    Sharp’s “portable device” with glasses-free 3D is already on sale in Japan. Two of them, actually, both Android smartphones, with one expected to make it to China around March and the rest of the world at an undetermined time.

  12. akronharry says:

    Will this be compatable with my quadraphonic receiver that I bought in the 70′s?

    • mbd says:

      Is that SQ Quad or CD-4 Quad…

    • AllanG54 says:

      A friend of mine had a quad tape player in his car and a tape of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein.” The music not only bounced from left to right but left front, right front, right rear and left rear. It was AWESOME !!

  13. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    If scientists can’t yet figure out how our eyes convert 2D images into a 3-dimensional world, I doubt engineers can make a good 3D television.

    • wastedlife says:

      A big [Citation Needed] for your post. Seriously though, what are you talking about? Your eyes are set apart, and thus each receives light coming from a different angle. Your brain then puts together the two images to form a “3d” view. If you are saying science doesn’t know exactly how the brain processes this, that’s fine, but it has nothing to do with developing 3d displays. That would be useful in something like designing robotics with “3d vision” or maybe replacing damaged portions of a brain in the distant future. A 3d display just needs to send a different picture to each eye and your brain will put it together. No advances in neurological science will change this fact.

  14. Supes says:

    Okay, so the technology isn’t ready yet. Doesn’t mean it won’t be in the near future.

    I think a quality 3D glasses-free effect viewable from multiple angles is really only about 3 years away. Like current 3D tech, it wouldn’t surprise me if it starts out very expensive, and we see it in movie theaters first before it makes its way home.

    It’s the logical progression from the current setup, since so many people have expressed their distaste for 3D glasses.

  15. dush says:

    until we get 360 degree viewable 3d holograms, just stop.

  16. common_sense84 says:

    Circular polarization is where it is at. It is cheap and it works from all angles.

    Also these are prototypes. Of course they are not going to have 64 viewing points yet. There is nothing wrong with them having demos with limited viewing spots.

  17. Consumer David says:

    RCA? This isn’t 1993, are they even relevant anymore?

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      I was shocked to find out that the RCA brand was sold off for a small price. It’s not a company, just a brand.

  18. Midnight Harley says:

    Can’t wait for my 3DS…Nintendo leaving these companies in their dust as usual.

  19. Anna Kossua says:

    The whole the 3D thing sounds pretty cool… just wish I could see it. Amblyopia (where one eye sees but my brain won’t process it so well) is a real crapper.