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Glasses-free 3D: Cloudy with a chance of headache

15 Jan 2015 | Rasmus Larsen |

The 3D TVs had completely disappeared from the CES show floors this year, replaced by amazing Ultra HD TVs in all shapes and sizes. But there were some glasses-free 3D demonstrations, and one company is actually planning on releasing TVs in 2015. The problem is that the technology remains unconvincing.

Chasing the wrong target?

Just before CES 2015 kicked off, a company called Stream TV announced that 2015 will finally be the year of glasses-free 3D for the masses. They had even scheduled a big press event at CES The bad news is that there is not much new to report since last year.

Stream TV 3D

Stream TV still has the best technology, and occasionally you will experience some 3D depth, but most of the time the picture just looks plain weird; kind of sparkling or rolling. Stream TV was exhibiting in central hall - by far the busiest place at CES - not far from Sony and Samsung, but every time we passed by the booth was practically empty. While standing there we overheard two people stopping, exclaiming; "wow it makes you kind of dizzy - yes" and leaving.

TVs with the Stream TV technology will be available later in 2015 from Chinese Konka, Skyworth and Hisense. In the UK, you will be able to pick one up from Cello. In the US, Izon has signed on.

We also spotted other glasses-free 3D TVs, including one from Chinese Changhong, which probably marked the low point for 3D at CES 2015. Samsung had one, too, dubbed “glassesless 3D”. It was a 110-inch 8K TV with all of Samsung’s latest S’UHD promises, but despite its 33 million pixels it looked hilariously bad. It literally made me dizzy – in the bad way. Notice what looks like heavy stuttering in the two lower corners. It was there in reality, too.

Samsung glassesless 3D

The ironic truth of Samsung’s demo occurred when Samsung occasionally switched to a standard 2D picture in incredible 8K resolution. This picture was simply stunning. A few minutes later, Samsung would switch back to the pseudo 3D video and destroy the beautiful TV. If Samsung’s intention was to show how bad “glassesless 3D” looks it certainly succeeded.

A further irony was the fact that Samsung’s 8K TV often appeared to have more depth when reproducing a 2D image. 8K – 16 times Full HD – has some much detail that it actually tricks the eye and mind into experiencing at least some level of depth. Before CES 2015, we used to say that the most impressive glasses-free 3D picture is reproduced on Sharp’s 8K TV – a conventional 2D TV.

It seems that some players in the industry are chasing the wrong target. A flat TV has never seemed like the optimal solution for 3D depth. Products such as Oculus Rift seem like better solutions for "full immersion". Those guys are calling it “virtual reality” by the way.

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