Glasses-free 3D: Don't believe the hype

Amid all the 3D hoopla, you may have read about manufacturers at trade shows touting televisions that don't require 3D glasses. Here's why you shouldn't believe the hype.

It was another bumper week for 3D at techfest trade show IFA. LG launched a 3D OLED TV , and Samsung punted the  world's largest 3D LED TV . There were 3D projectors from Sony and LG, Panasonic announced a release date for its HDC-SDT750 3D camcorder , and Sony even had a 3D Vaio laptop prototype. Sadly, all require special glasses to get the 3D effect.

We didn't have the heart to tell them you lot aren't bothered .

Amid all the three-dimensional hoopla, you may have read about glasses-free televisions being shown off to journalists and industry types at trade shows like IFA, where Crave checked out the latest technology last week. Visitors oohed and aahed at sans-specs screens exhibited by Samsung, Philips, Vestel and Sharp -- 3D without glasses, what's not to love?

The opposite sex don't like specs

Primarily, the fact that it's not that good. The glasses-free tellies on display at IFA aren't going to be in shops any time soon -- they're adverts for the concept of 3D rather than advances in the technology. They swap silly glasses for smoke and mirrors.

Glasses-free 3D is an old concept. The principle of all 3D is getting a slightly different image to each eye, which the brain combines to create an illusion of depth. Glasses-free screens work on the lenticular principle, dividing each frame into vertical strips and showing a different image on alternate strips for the left or right eye.

Lenticular displays work at small sizes, like on the Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W1 camera, the Nintendo 3DS, or the prototype mini-camcorder thingy currently being shown off by Sharp.

Boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses

The downside of lenticular displays is that, unlike glasses-based 3D, you need to be in the right place to get the effect. Visitors to Philips' stand at a trade show can stand square in front of the screen for 20 seconds of cooing appreciatively at the gorgeous 1080p video before wandering off in search of the next free pen, but that's not going to fly with six of you piled on a sofa in front of  Avatar on Blu-ray.

Even if you are in the sweet spot, there's still the possibility of eye strain and headaches. Looks like we're stuck with those glasses. For the latest 3D TVs, check out our reviews of the LG LEX8 , Sharp 3D Quattron LC-60LE925E and Panasonic Viera GT20 .

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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