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Sony panel creates glasses-free 3D for laptops

The company's promise of glasses-free 3D for laptops will come via a clip-on panel. Is it the best of both worlds or a burden?

plastic lenticular lens
Sony's 3D-inducing panel Courtesy of TechOn

Sony is joining the glasses-free 3D movement with a laptop add-on designed to give you the best of both 2D and 3D viewing.

Sony's 3D panel, designed for Vaio S and C series notebooks, is a 3mm-thick plastic sheet that clips onto the front of a laptop screen. The sheet is a lenticular lens that produces 3D images by sending slightly different images to each eye. Lenticular lenses are widely used to give printed images the illusion of depth or motion.

Like Toshiba's recently released glasses-free 3D laptop, the Sony Vaio SE will include face-tracking software that adjusts the optimal viewing angle to the user's position. By contrast, Toshiba's 3D screen is built-in, which results in slightly compromised 2D viewing.

Sony's 3D panel allow you to have screens optimized for 3D and 2D--but with the requirement of buying, carrying, and installing a separate component for viewing 3D content.

animated 3D on a laptop
The panel will attach to the front of some Vaio models. Courtesy of TechOn

The 3D panel will be available in October when Sony releases the Vaio SE 15.5-inch laptop, according to a report in Nikkei Electronics. The panel will cost about $183, based on a European list price of 129 euros, according to the report. Sony showed off the panel at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin last week.

The 3D panel is a big step forward from the old trick of covering half a standard laptop screen with ordinary cellophane to make it 3D--glasses required. The cellophane rotates the polarized light that comes from an LCD so that half the screen emits horizontally polarized light and the other vertically polarized light. Your eyes each ordinarily pick up both types of light, but the 3D glasses lenses each let one type of light through so you see different images with each eye. Today's glasses-free approaches direct different images to each eye so you don't have to wear glasses.