CES: Toshiba's glasses-free 3D laptop, hands-on

Will glasses-free 3D be the next trend in computers as well as game systems and televisions? We try a demo of Toshiba's technology.

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LAS VEGAS--3D was a megatrend across consumer electronics in 2010, but its biggest hindrance to acceptance still lies in those awkward plastic glasses. The truth is, nobody really wants to wear them.

There is hope: the Nintendo 3DS will introduce glasses-free 3D gaming, and glasses-free 3D TV is on its way. But could glasses-free laptops be far behind?

We got an advance look at glasses-free 3D laptop technology in a custom-built Toshiba Qosmio laptop, and though the technology has its limitations, it's an impressive proof of concept that's surprising to behold.

The effects worked, but they weren't perfect. The 120Hz screen flashed images at a rapid clip, producing a convincing result. A scene from "Avatar" demonstrated good depth effects, but the overall video quality did seem to suffer compared with a 3D Blu-ray experience.

Eye-tracking in effect on Dan Ackerman.
Eye-tracking in effect on Dan Ackerman. Scott Stein/CNET

Eye-tracking software using the Qosmio's Webcam used information on our eye location to tweak and deliver 3D games and video. The 3D effect, as with the Nintendo 3DS, is meant to work for individual users within a narrow viewing range, but the 3D followed me as I moved back and forth. The effect popped in and out as I shifted, but when I settled down, the 3D quality improved.

It's not perfect, and it's not coming out yet, but Toshiba says glasses-free 3D laptops are in development. While gamers might regret potential resolution drops, the convenience and wow factor of glasses-free 3D is definitely a little taste of the future. The concept device will be shown at this year's 2011 CES, where it's certain to grab a fair share of headlines.

 

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