Theaters could force 3D on moviegoers with new glasses-free tech

Aside from Hollywood producers, does anyone old enough to walk care about 3D anymore? Right now, 3D is an option (a pricey one) and not the default when you go to the movies. However, 3D could become the only way if theaters apply a glasses-free 3D filter on top of their existing projectors.

No matter what your stance on 3D is — whether it gives you headaches, you find the resolution too low or simply dislike 3D-converted movies — the fact remains: it's there to complement 2D screenings. Nobody is forcing you to pay extra to wear silly plastic glasses to watch 3D movies.

Even with a device such as Nintendo's 3DS that exists primarily to sell you glasses-free 3D games as a feature that's more than just a novelty, the 3D depth can be toned down or turned off completely.

A movie shown in 3D in a theater requires two projectors — each one beaming a separate image, when combined with 3D glasses create depth. Requiring a second projector is expensive, too.

A new technique published by South Korean researchers in Optics Express outlines a new way to make 3D enjoyable without any plastic frames, while being cost effective for theaters to maintain.

As reported by Wired's Adam Mann, here's how it works:

"A special array sits in front of the projector and polarizes its light. A filter covering the screen then obscures different vertical regions of the screen, like the slats of venetian blinds. Each of your eyes, sitting at a slightly different angle, has some of the screen blocked and some of the screen visible. The movie has the right-eye and left-eye images interleaved in vertical columns with one another. The trick then is to have the light visible to your left eye contain the left-eye pixels and vice versa for the right eye."

In its current state, the glasses-free 3D tech displays footage in a relatively low resolution. Once the hurdles of light blockage and resolution are resolved, theaters could start incorporating the filters over their projectors and screens.

If that day ever comes (the researchers say it's still a long ways off), you can bet your pony that movie tickets will increase and you won't be able to do a thing about it. Never a better time to invest in a 75-inch HDTV, right?

Optics Express, via Wired

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook