Forget the glasses--3D monitors ready now

Expect to see more opportunities for three-dimensional viewing show up on TVs, cell phones and beyond.

SAN FRANCISCO--Has 3D's time arrived?

Several display companies are concocting, and in some cases already selling, monitors and other components that provide a simulated 3D viewing experience. Many of these new products don't require glasses.

Stand in front of a Philips 3D monitor, and animated characters throw rose petals or dice at you; the first time you see it, you startle and jolt upward slightly. A film trailer shown on the monitors seems to have more depth than a standard 2D movie.

The Dutch electronics giant has tested the technology in the labs with consumers and noted that a person's galvanic skin response--a change in the skin's ability to conduct electricity, caused by an emotional stimulus, such as fright--rises with 3D viewing.

"It is clearly a more immersive experience," Jos Swillens, vice president and general manager of the 3D division at Philips, said during an interview at the conference here. "There is nothing hampering this from becoming a mainstream product."

While Philips currently sells monitors with its WOWxv technology only to resorts and malls for public information kiosks, it hopes to bring out 3D TVs in about two years. The company is currently talking with broadcasters and producers to produce 3D-optimized content; it is also negotiating with other TV manufacturers to license the technology for their own sets.

"I have spent a lot of time in the Far East in the last year," Swillens said.

3D monitors

While Philips is one of the farthest along, others are also working on their own ideas. Toshiba is showing off a prototype 3D monitor at the conference that doesn't require glasses.

Sanyo, meanwhile, has come up with a prototype glasses-less 3D monitor that can simultaneously provide two different TV programs--one for a person on the left and one on the right--according to Goro Hamagishi, a researcher at the company. With this technology, a person in the passenger seat of a car could watch a movie while the driver could observe a 3D map, complete with skyscrapers, churned up by a GPS service and thereby navigate by sight rather than address.

By contrast, Boulder, Colo.-based ColorLink says to forget trying to get rid of glasses. The company is working with arcade game manufacturers to create immersive 3D driving games, according to John Korah, product development engineer for the company.

ColorLink, which makes polarizers for big-screen TVs, is also getting feelers from the porn industry, he added, comically cocking an eyebrow.

Pixel to pixel: How it works
Three-dimensional monitors and TVs essentially rely on human gullibility. In typical monitors, the pixels are synchronized to send out a single image. In a 3D monitor, however, half the pixels are used to create one image, and the other half are used to create a similar, but slightly different one, said Korah. Stand too close or far away, and the images overlap and make the overall picture blurry.

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