Uncomfortable glasses are certainly near the top of anyone’s laundry list of problems with 3D. For decades, glasses have been an unavoidable fact because 3D is comprised of two different images, projected from behind you, and the glasses are the tool that combines the two into a three-dimensional illusion. In recent years, with 3D become more popular and lucrative, companies have been trying to solve the problem of presenting 3d without glasses. While devices like the Nintendo 3DS have proposed solutions, nothing has been affordable or practical on a mass, theatrical level.

Enter South Korean researchers who published a new study in Optics Express. They’ve come up with a technique that would allow theaters to keep their traditional projectors behind the audience and, by adding few simple optics on the screen and in front of the projector, would result in glasses-free 3D. Read more details after the jump.

The original research was published in Optics Express, via Wired and Gizmodo. Here’s the description from Wired:

The new method would allow movie theaters to keep their projectors where they’ve always been, behind the audience, and uses fairly simple optical technology. A special array sits in front of the projector and polarizes its light. A filter covering the screen then obscures different vertical regions of the screen, like the slats of venetian blinds. Each of your eyes, sitting at a slightly different angle, has some of the screen blocked and some of the screen visible. The movie has the right-eye and left-eye images interleaved in vertical columns with one another. The trick then is to have the light visible to your left eye contain the left-eye pixels and vice versa for the right eye.

The biggest advancement here is that theaters wouldn’t need to reconfigure their theaters to fit a projector behind the screen or buy some super expensive filter to cover the whole screen. On the other hand, it means distrubtion companies would need to learn to output their films in a totally new way, with areas of the image blocked or not depending on the film.

Another problem is in its current incarnation, the technology has to diffuse the image so much, only a very low resolution is output. One that’s much too low for traditional standards. But improving an idea is easier than actually inventing the idea so half the battle is likely done.

It’s a long way away but this is certainly a major step forward for theatrical, glasses-free 3D. For more images and charts, head to the above Optics Express link.

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