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3-D displays and auto-stereoscopic technology

Almost everyone has seen, or heard of, 3D television shows or theme park attractions. Unfortunately you've had to wear special glasses to experience these three dimensional images. Not anymore. Companies are developing display technologies that remove the need for glasses.

Desktop Displays

Actuality Systems, Inc

Actuality presents a different approach to a desktop autostereoscopic display than the other vendors. They believe you should be able to walk 360 degrees around the display and see a life size three dimensional image. This is obviously not possible with a 3D monitor. Click here to enlarge the image

The Perspecta® display will complement a computer monitor instead of replacing it. Initially the maximum viewable size will be about 10". The raster-scan display renders high resolution, volumetric, images in real-time.

The Perspecta® display works by projecting thousands of 2D images per second onto a rotating screen. This is sometimes referred to as a swept volume display. Similar to television the eye fuses these images together to create a seamless image. The downside to this method is that you can't actually "touch" the image, but hey, we won't be greedy. Maybe they'll figure that out in a few years.

Perspecta® is available for purchase. For more information visit Actuality's web site.

A.C.T Kern

Their desktop LCD displays are autostereoscopic so they don't require glasses to see the 3D images. Vertical lenticular lenses direct discrete images to each eye and eye tracking adjusts on the fly the keep the viewer in the sweet spot. The web site has a good amount of detail describing the Free2C technology and applications.

The United States affiliate is called Richardson Electronics.

Deep Video Imaging Ltd. (this company doesn't seem to exist anymore)

Deep Video Imaging's 3D display, called actualdepth, uses layered LCD panels to create the illusion of depth. They appear to be targeting kiosks and point of purchase displays instead of computer desktops like some of the other developers. Also, it appears that Deep Video Imaging doesn't manufacture the displays themselves. Instead they sell to OEMs.

Dimension Technologies, Inc. (DTI)

Dimension Technologies, Inc. (DTI) has developed LCD's that display 3D images without the need for glasses. Displays

The technical term for this technology is "autostereoscopic 3D imaging."

DTI calls their product line, Virtual Window™ and in July 2007 a 19" display is available for $3695.

The following paragraphs are from DTI's web site. They describe the concept behind the displays and one of DTI's competitive advantages.

"Our basic technology has been reduced to a single active substrate that inserts between the LCD and its backlighter. When turned on it allows the display to show real 3D images by creating light lines. These light lines are placed behind a conventional LCD panel."

"The ability to convert instantly from 3D to 2D display is the characteristic that makes DTI displays unique in the world: no other 3D display (there are only a couple) converts to full resolution 2D."

Dresden 3D GmbH (assets have been aquired by SeeReal)

Dresden 3D Display (D4D)

The Dresden 3D Display (D4D) is an 18.1" TFT LCD like the largest Virtual Window from DTI. Eye tracking means viewers have the freedom to view 3D images from various angles. Some other designs don't allow this same level of flexibility.

D4D can operate as a primary monitor, like DTI's display, with any video card, but Dresden is also marketing the D4D as a secondary display that will compliment a normal monitor. Because of this Dresden optionally bundles a FireGL 3 graphics board with the D4D. The FireGL 3 is capable of driving two displays simultaneously. A keyboard shortcut will toggle the 3D display on and off when two displays are used. Another feature of the FireGL 3 is that any OpenGL program can be set to output stereo 3D images to the D4D.


The feature list for the HoloVizio line of displays is impressive. Like most of the displays mentioned here HoloVizio boasts true 3D with the naked eye. But, it's the other features that stand out.

- Viewers can walk around the screen in a wide field of view seeing the objects and shadows moving continuously as in the normal perspective. It is even possible to look behind the objects, hidden details appear, while others disappear (motion parallax). Each image visualized by Holovizio contains an equal amount of information to almost 100 conventional 2D images.

- Unlimited number of viewers can see simultaneously the same 3D scene on the screen, with the possibility of seeing different details

- Objects appear behind or even in front of the screen like on holograms

- No positioning or head tracking applied

The displays are currently available in 32" (16:9) and 26" (4:3) sizes.

This article contains some videos and description of HoloVizio.

LightSpace Technologies

The DepthCube Z1024 3D display consists of 20 stacked LCD shutter panels that allow viewers to see objects in three dimensions without the need for glasses. Video is projected through the LCD shutters. Unlike auto-stereoscopic displays, DepthCube technology doesn't limit the field of view allowing multiple people to experience the 3D effect simultaneously. It also "provides both horizontal and vertical parallax-allowing the viewer to look around foreground objects to reveal previously obstructed background objects." More details of the technology are presented in 3-Deep from IEEE Spectrum.

The DepthCube InterceptorT application allows the Z1024 to intercept OpenGL data and effectively slice it for display across the stacked LCD panels. It is unclear if all OpenGL applications are supported.

Phoebe Ltd.

Update: Phoebe Ltd.'s web site is unavailable, but the company says a new web site is being constructed.

Viewing 3D holograms that float in mid-air without the need for special viewing equipment like glasses is a dream shared by many. A London based company called Phoebe Ltd. claims to have achieved this dream and they are in the process of commercializing their technology (2006). Here are some highlights from Phoebe's website.

P-3Di presents a holographic image outside of a physical device which is capable of being viewed in any light without the need for special eyeware.

The P-3Di System produces a crisp, bright coloured 3D holographic moving image that hovers in mid air between 5cm and 1 metre from source (bespoke systems can be designed to project images further than 1 metre if required) . Display units can vary in size from 10cm to 6 metres.

Phoebe is targeting an array of markets ranging from defense to cell phones with units that range in size from mobile phone to 6 meters square. A key feature of Phoebe's technology is the interactivity.

Our P-3Di Display has a unique motion detection system, which allows the user to interact with the 3D holographic image.

Polaris Sensor Technologies

At this time Polaris is unique in using polarization with a desktop sized display. Their method stacks two LCDs and uses polarization to direct the appropriate image to each eye. This is the same method used at amusement parks like Disney World so if you've been to a show there and worn clear glasses you know what kind of quality to expect.

The downside to polarization is the need for polarized glasses, but given a comfortable pair the high quality might be worth the cost. You can already buy cheap polarized sunglasses that look good and are comfortable so it shouldn't be too hard to convince people to wear another accessory for short periods of time. Many of us already wear headphones without complaining.

Polaris is mainly targeting professionals and military applications, but if they are able to arrange a partnership with a big display manufacturer like Sony or Hitachi the high volumes could drive down the price enough to make it palatable for home users to watch movies and play games. The main cost increase over today's LCD monitors is the second panel.

Polaris' web site briefly explains the various 3D display technologies in use today giving some pros and cons for each approach. It's a good refresher even if you are somewhat familiar each technique.


While it's not autostereoscopic the Reachin Display is still some cool technology. It more than just a display too, it's an entire user interface, including input. The goal is to allow the user to "see and feel the object in the same place." Here's how Reachin describes the display.

The Reachin Display integrates a PHANTOMT force feedback device from SensAble Technologies with stereo monitor and supporting systems. The innovative use of a semi-transparent mirror creates an interface where graphics and haptics are co-located - the user can see and feel the object in the same place!

The display is available in two versions. To get a better understanding of how the system works check out this concept avi file (3MB).


In May 2007 SeeReal demonstrated their prototype holographic display at the Society for International Display (SID) forum in California. As of July the product's still not available to buy, but SeeReal has licensing information on their web site.


The 3D MIW, or Mobile Immersive Workbench, is like a mobile, yet autostereoscopic, version of the Reachin Display mentioned above.

It integrates standard off-the-shelf hardware components such as SensAble Technologies haptic device and Sharp's PC-RD3D autostereoscopic laptop to offer a complete solution that weighs in at under 10kg (22lbs) and costs less than $10,000 including advanced software development tools.

SenseGraphics' open source haptic API, called H3D, allows developers to add haptic support to their software.

Some other players are 4D-Vision, Genex Technologies, Sanyo, and StereoGraphics. Philips is currently working with developers who wish to incorporate 3D into their applications. When this article was written no information was available on Sanyo's web site concerning the availability of their 3D display. Sharp should have a product ready soon. Genex's display appears to be similar to Actuality's, but no technical information is available on their web site.

Currently 3D LCD's are only practical for businesses that focus on entertainment and product design, but the recent price drop on DTI's 15" display means that soon the average consumer could have one sitting on their desktop.

New York University (NYU) has a neat demo that shows two possible implementations of glasses free 3D displays. Viewing these demos is the easiest way to grasp the concept behind 3D LCDs.

Large Displays


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