Just as it seemed the world was finally settling into the idea of 3D movies and TV, Toshiba has pulled the rug out from under all of us, demonstrating a range of 3D tellies at CES 2011 that don't require any glasses to watch. We infiltrated the Toshiba stand to check it out, and find out exactly what makes this tantalising tech tick.
Toshiba was showcasing 65-inch, 56-inch, 20-inch and 12-inch panels, and a glasses-free 3D laptop screen too.
The TVs use 4K panels -- 4,096x2,160 pixels -- which is a stonkingly high resolution, and much higher than boring old HD TVs. Each panel uses parallax barriers, which essentially means there's a barrier within the screen full of tiny slits, that splits images into separate beams that get fired out the screen. Line up your eyes correctly, and you'll see a slightly different image in each eye, creating a stereoscopic effect.
Just as we saw in the upcoming Nintendo 3DS, which is due for release in March, this lenticular system creates a sweet-spot for your eyes, where the 3D effect is visible, and if you move out of this zone, the effect breaks. The Toshiba TVs on show were no different, but there were several sweet spots, with Toshiba had kindly marked on the floor with gaffer tape.
Between sweet spots two images were visible, which looked messy, and the 3D effect didn't work. That said, the sweet spots themselves seemed quite wide -- wide enough that if your family was watching everyone could probably work themselves into a comfy position.
As for the effect itself, it looks... interesting. At times it was phenomenal, and really immersive, but sometimes it wobbled a bit, and things that were supposed to be further back popped into the foreground, or vice-versa. That said, we're a very long way from a product going on sale, and if this effect improves, it could definitely deliver a better viewing experience than boring old glasses-requiring 3D. Colour us cautiously optomistic.
The effect was arguably more convincing in the smaller displays, and Toshiba was also showing off 3D laptop technology, whereby the laptop's built-in webcam detects your eyes, and starts pumping out the glasses-free 3D effect when you hove into view. There are some photos of that, and the webcam's facial identification software if you click through the photos above.