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New screens could spell the end for 3D glasses

Glasses-free 3D screens could soon be a feature of our cities and towns. Image: TriLite Technologies
Glasses-free 3D screens could soon be a feature of our cities and towns. Image: TriLite Technologies

Seeing a shark jump out at you on the street may seem like a scene from a movie, but new digital technology that combines lasers and micromirrors to create a 3D effect without the need for glasses means it could soon become reality.

Start-up company TriLite Technologies has developed the new glasses-free 3D technology in order to project 3D images to a crowd. What’s more, the technology can be used outside, and the images can be seen whether it’s night or day.

This means it’s especially useful for outdoor screening events and advertisements, so in the future, as you walk down a street, a footballer might kick a ball towards your head, or a soft drink may spray in your direction. Before, this would have been impossible because someone would have had to hand out 3D glasses to passers-by.

‘What we were thinking was that once you get rid of the glasses, 3D will become standard,’ said Ferdinand Saint Julien, founding partner and business director of TriLite Technologies, which worked on the screen as part of the MILLE consortium, part-funded by the Eurostars programme. ‘3D has kind of died down a bit because people weren’t interested in wearing those glasses. It doesn’t work on the consumer side and obviously it doesn’t work outside.’

Different perspectives

‘Once you get rid of the glasses, 3D will become standard.’

Ferdinand Saint Julien, TriLite Technologies, Vienna, Austria

3D images are created when the image received by one eye is a slightly different perspective from the image received by the other eye and the brain combines these into a 3D image – an effect known as stereoscopy. Until now, this effect has been achieved by glasses.

The new 3D screens are made up of thousands of pixels, or Trixels as TriLite calls them, each of which contains three lasers – one red, one blue and one green – and a micromirror.

The system uses the micromirror to sweep image information across your field of vision. Each eye receives slightly different images, hence the 3D effect.

The pixels are synchronised so that they can distribute the information in 3D to a large number of viewers.

Not only can 3D images be generated on these screens without glasses, but different images can be projected towards people who are standing in different places. As a result, a person coming out of a shoe store might see an advertisement for shoes on the screen, while someone coming out of a cinema will see a trailer for the next big film.

‘We can steer information to where we want to,’ said Saint Julien.

Added to this, the technology can be optimised so that a person standing a particular distance from the screen, at the so-called sweet spot, will see the best 3D effect. So if the sweet spot is 30m from the screen, everyone who stands 30m away in any direction will get the best view.

Currently, the screens work optimally at distance ranges between 20 and 70m. If you’re standing further away than 70m, you will only see a 2D image.

Digital signage

According to Saint Julien, we could soon be seeing the technology in our streets, and it could even help us by giving us information on the road.

‘Digital signage can be retail and advertisement, it can be public screening events, temporary installations for sporting events, traffic information systems,’ he said.

‘For example, you can show a driver on the left lane different traffic information from the driver on the right lane. So if you’re in the left lane and you’re driving to Brussels for example, and there is a traffic jam, you can tell the left drivers that there is a traffic jam and the right drivers aren’t interested in that (because they are going another way).’

TriLite Technologies’ next prototype should be finished by the end of April and they are working on having the product on the market by 2016.

Eurostars

The Eurostars programme, co-funded by Horizon 2020 and the national budgets of 34 EUREKA countries, is designed to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to compete internationally.

The programme aims to support the specific needs of SMEs that perform and are involved with research, and who develop new and innovative products, processes and services. To date more than EUR 1 bn has been allocated over 10 project calls.

To be eligible for the Eurostars programme, an SME must involve at least three partners, two of which must be from two different Eurostars participating countries. Eurostars projects must be started and led by an SME, and within two years of completion the product of research should be ready for market.

TriLite Technologies and their three partner companies in the MILLE consortium are funded by Eurostars.

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