Every review I’ve read of the new Nintendo 3DS and its head-tracking technology has been impressed with how it improves the 3D effect, but scientists in Vienna are working on a new approach to glasses free-3D that might make Nintendo’s device seem as the magic lantern is to today’s HD movies.

The prototype 3D display developed by startup Trilite Technologies and the Vienna Institute of Technology uses lasers directed by moveable mirrors as pixels, beaming multiple slightly offset images with such precise angular resolution that the viewer perceives the image in 3D without glasses.

Because it uses lasers, the display is vivid enough to be seen in bright sunlight. It’s also not, like traditional 3D, limited to displaying two images. It can in fact project hundreds of images, allowing a viewer to walk by a display and see what’s being shown from different angles as a full 3D object. This technique required the developers to create an entirely new video format.

The developers see a lot of potential in the display for advertisements. In fact, they say, it can project more than one ad at once, with viewers seeing different ads depending on their position in relation to the device.

The prototype display.
The prototype display.

There’s a bit of a catch, at this point, in that the device has a current resolution of five by three 3D laser pixels, or “Trixels.” Yeah, it’s just a few rows of lights. But the prototype is a successful proof of the concept, and the team is working on making it more practical.

“We are creating a second prototype, which will display color 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”, says Jörg Reitterer (TriLite Technologies and PhD-student in the team of Professor Ulrich Schmid at the Vienna University of Technology).

Another limitation is that the viewer must be within a certain distance range to see the 3D effect. If they’re too far away they’ll just see a 2D image. The screens can be “tuned” to different ranges to fit their environment.

The researchers plan a commercial launch for their product in 2016.

[Source: Vienna University of Technology]

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