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Gadgets -Apple May Bring 3D Without the Glasses

December 08, 2010

Apple May Bring 3D Without the Glasses

By Susan J. Campbell
TMCnet Contributing Editor

If you could enjoy 3D without the glasses, would you be more likely to engage in 3D viewing? According to a recent Gigaom report, Apple may hold the technology to help bring 3D to the masses without the annoying glasses.

This could be a key driver for 3D television, which is still struggling to gain traction. Of course, touchscreen technology faced many similar struggles in its infancy, and Apple (News - Alert) was able to bring it to the level of popularity it enjoys today.

Apple was recently awarded a patent on a new auto-stereoscopic 3D projection system that will allow multiple viewers to watch 3D content without glasses. The patent actually describes a rather complicated setup that involves a motion-tracking system that can monitor the eyes of multiple viewers – weird Sci-Fi anyone?

As the system monitors the eyes, it then projects pixels onto a projection screen that has a pre-determined angularity-responsive reflective surface function. The screen would basically deliver different views for different people based on the position of their eyes.

This isn’t the first introduction of 3D without the glasses, but the current technology suffers from a narrow viewing angle that makes it hard for groups of TV viewers to enjoy and a tough sell for TVs. It has, however, allowed it to be deployed in handsets. Nintendo is now working on a 3DS handheld that will deploy the technology.

If Apple’s technology actually works, it could offer the breakthrough needed to drive mass adoption for 3D. Sales of 3D displays have been slow to take off – with projected shipments of 1.6 million sets for this year, which only represents 2 percent of all TVs. The necessity of glasses that are both expensive and uncomfortable is hurting adoption.

Apple anticipates its patent can deliver enjoyment beyond home entertainment and could include benefits for medical diagnostics, flight simulation, air traffic control, battlefield simulation, weather diagnostics, advertising and education. The technology could also help to boost gaming on Mac computers and could be used to present 3D TV through the Apple TV set-top box.

Indicators from the patents suggest it could be a while before the technology is released. Devices are emerging on the market, however, that suggest that the consumer’s relationship with the TV can evolve to include motion input – just think Xbox Kinect. If Apple can apply the technology to track the viewer’s eyes and apply that to the screen, 3D may take on a whole new meaning. 

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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