Sony unveiled a 360-degree viewable holographic display—130 by 270 millimeters—last year that produces 3-D images without the need for special eyewear, but the technology remains in the research and development stage for now, according to company spokeswoman Chisato Kitsukawa.
Other approaches to native 3-D include autostereoscopic and multiview displays. The problem with these technologies is that they require light-directing technologies (such as lenticular lenses that magnify different images when viewed from different angles) that have to be aligned perfectly and tend to reduce a display's resolution, says David Wertheimer, CEO and executive director of the University of Southern California's Entertainment Technology Center.
"It is hard to imagine that glasses-free displays will match glasses-based displays in terms of resolution, quality and frame rate anytime soon," Wertheimer says. Native 3-D technologies are seductive because viewers would not have to worry about glasses, but it may be a long time before the experience with glasses-free displays is as good as what is available through the standard stereoscopic systems available today.
Dutch* electronics-maker Philips had been experimenting with an LCD TV that relied on a lenticular lens placed over the screen to generate the 3-D effect without glasses but shut that project down last year. "We wanted to further the technology, but due to market factors it is less commercially attractive to maintain that business," says Hans Driessen, senior communications manager for Philips Research. "Over time, 3-D without glasses will bring the ultimate experience to the home, but in the meantime we are now looking to develop 3-D displays that do require glasses." The company demonstrated its stereoscopic 3-D TV and glasses last year at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin and plans to make an additional announcement regarding the product by the end of the year.
Philips's approach was to place a lens over an LCD panel to create depth for each pixel, but critics say that the company's technology was unable to provide a sufficiently wide field of view. "With true 3-D, you would be able to move around and be able to see it and have excellent resolution from a number of different angles," Peyghambarian says.
The incentive for TV-makers to get the technology right is there, as Hollywood continues churning out successful 3-D movies such as Avatar and Up, both of which were nominated for Oscars this year. There are plans for 50 wide-release 3-D movies in 2010, up from 20 last year.
"We are all excited about the potential for glasses-free displays," Wertheimer says. "However, for sure, we'll be wearing glasses for the foreseeable future."
*Correction (3/06/10): This article originally misstated that Philips is a Danish company.