New television screens will make it possible for viewers to enjoy three-dimensional (3D) television programming without those bothersome 3D glasses.
But the content has been rather lacking – until now. A new technology will soon be adapting conventional 3D films to the new displays in real time. German researchers unveiled this technology in Berlin at a trade show from August 31 to September 5.
Lounging on a sofa while watching a 3D movie is an exquisite pleasure for many film fans. Be that as it may, those nettlesome 3D glasses might diminish the fun somewhat.
This is why television manufacturers are working on displays that can recreate the spellbinding magic of 3D television images – without the glasses. Prototypes of these television screens already exist and con- sumers will not have to wait much longer for the market introduction of these autostereoscopic displays. Nevertheless, the content might be a bit problematic: the 3D movies currently available on Blue-ray are based on two different perspectives – that is, two images, one for each eye. However, auto- stereoscopic displays need five to ten views of the same scene (depending on the type). In the future, the number will probably be even more. This is because these displays have to present a 3D image in such a manner that it can be seen from different angles. There is more than one place to sit on a sofa, and you should be able to get the same 3D impressions from any position.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, in Berlin, recently developed a technology that converts a Blue-ray’s existing 3D content in a manner that enables it to be shown on autostereoscopic displays.
“We take the existing two images and gene- rate a depth map – that is to say, a map that assigns a specific distance from the camera to each object,” says Christian Reichert, research fellow at the institute. “From there, we compute any of several intermediate views by applying depth image-based rendering techniques. And here is the really neat thing: the process operates on a fully automated basis and in real time.”
Previous systems were only capable of gene- rating such depth maps at a dramatically slower pace– sometimes they even required manual adaptation. Real-time conversion, by contrast, is the simultaneous interpretation: the viewer inserts a 3D Blu-ray disc, sits comfortably in front of the television screen and enjoys the movie – without the glasses. Meanwhile, a hardware component estimates the depth map in the background and generates the requisite views. The viewer is aware of nothing. He or she can fast-forward or rewind the movie, start it or stop it – all with the same outstanding quality. The flickering that could appear on the edges of objects – something that happens as a result of imprecise estimations – is imperceptible here.
The researchers have already finished the software that converts these data. In the next step, the scientists, working in collabo- ration with industry partners, intend to port it onto a hardware product so that it can be integrated into televisions. However, it will still take at least another calender year before the technology hits department store shelves. At the Berlin trade show, the technology could be tested. An autostereoscopic 3D screen was set up right in front of a sofa corner at the institute’s booth. Visitors could select from the various 3D Blu-ray discs, and as the disc was being played, the system converted it live: the visitors just relaxed and enjoyed the movie – without glasses.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommuni- cations is a world leader in the development of mobile and fixed broadband communication networks and multimedia systems. From photonic components and systems to fibre-optic sensor systems and high-speed hardware architectures, the institute works together with its international partners from research and industry on the infrastructure for the future gigabit society for the international market. It also develops forward-looking applications for broadband networks with a key research focus on 3D television, 3D displays, high-definition, man-machine interaction through control by gesture, image signal processing and transmission, and use of interactive multimedia.