While Avatar may have had the public mildly excited about 3D movies, it was the Nintendo 3DS that had people throwing conniptions about the possibilities of "glassless" 3D.
To capitalise on this interest, Sharp has shown off two of its 3D prototypes in Japan designed to be used in handheld devices. Don't be expecting massive, TV-sized devices yet because while we'll most likely see them from next year, they are likely to be suitable for one person only. And very expensive, as one Samsung executive said.
In Sharp's instance the first model displayed was a prototype 3.8-inch screen, which ran off a separate laptop, while the second was a more fully-formed 10.6-inch tablet.
The 3.8-incher featured a resolution of 800x480 and the 3D effect was as good as we've come to expect from this type. The device used a parallax barrier screen, which involves a series of thin slits laid over the top of the screen. In this case, to get the optimal image quality you need to place your eyes exactly 30cm away for the 3D effect to work. Unfortunately, the tech isn't quite ready for release, and though Sharp was hinting that it was being "used by a client", it's not about to appear in something like the Nintendo 3DS with its 3.5-inch screen just yet. The reason is that the box was huge — about 6cm tall and 20cm wide — and it still needed an external HDMI signal. There was a switch to convert the signal from 3D to 2D, but it only made the image fuzzy as if you were watching 3D without glasses and not 2D.
On the other hand, the tablet was a little closer to production standard. It featured a 10.6-inch screen with a 1280x760 resolution and appeared to be replaying content from an on-board drive. Sharp was unable to give details on when this or the other technology would be released. And of course: no photos.
Unlike some of the other technologies we've seen the resolution was quite high. Despite some interlacing it looked quite convincing. The fact that you have to have your face in a particular position is obviously a limiting factor.
While these screens will likely appear next year, Sharp will release its first 3D device in the coming months: a 60-inch Quattron television. Unfortunately, you will need to wear 3D glasses, but based on a technology demo it performs a lot better than glassless technologies and is here almost now and is relatively affordable. We expect glassless technology won't be ready till say 2020, and you can bet it won't be the same technology used in the 3D toys you get in cereal packets today.
Ty Pendlebury flew to Japan as a guest of Sharp