Researchers develop projectors that will show 3D images without glasses

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Jan 16, 2015, 6:20 PM EST

If you've been on the Internet at all in the past 13 months, you might know from various viral photos that the year we're living in corresponds to a fictional version of the future presented in the second Back to the Future film, and that at this moment we're supposed to be wearing weird clothes and riding hoverboards. Well, most of that particular future seems to have eluded us for the moment, but one element of the film's future seems to be coming true: 3D images on billboards that we can see without glasses.

Austrian startup TriLite Technologies first partnered with the Vienna University of Technology in 2013 with the goal of developing a 3D image generator that would work without the use of 3D glasses, and now it seems the firm has perfected its first prototype. The system uses a complex system of lasers that projects beams in different directions, with a very fine angular resolution that allows viewers to see a different image in each eye, creating the impression of three dimensions. If the technology is scaled up to the size of something like an ad in New York's Times Square, for example, passersby would see a different image from different sides of the projector, creating the illusion that you're walking past a real object that changes based on where you're standing. The initial prototype has a small resolution, but TriLite employees are confident that the system can easily be expanded.

"We are creating a second prototype, which will display colour pictures with a higher resolution. But the crucial point is that the individual laser pixels work. Scaling it up to a display with many pixels is not a problem," said TriLite employee Jörg Reitterer.

These days, we're mostly acquainted with 3D technology through movies. For their prototype, though, TriLite has crafted a new 3D projection format that could use many more cameras to create a fuller 3D effect, without the use of glasses.

"Today's 3D cinema movies can be converted into our 3D format, but we expect that new footage will be created especially for our displays - perhaps with a much larger number of cameras," Franz Fiedler, CTO of TriLite Technologies, said.

The company is developing a new, more advanced prototype right now and hopes to launch commercially in 2016. So we're not quite at the point where a 3D shark could try to eat us on the street, but we're close.

(Via Daily Mail)