Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting


IF ONLY – in Stunning 3D

Perhaps you have heard or read some of the following:

“We need to come up with the next great technology advance to sell a whole new generation of flat-panel TV’s.” 

“3D TV will be the answer – if only we didn’t have to put up with those heavy and expensive active shutter glasses.”

“3D TV with passive polarizing glasses is the answer – if only we could find a way to not need glasses at all.”

“3D TV with auto-stereo is the answer – if only the viewer didn’t have to sit in a particular location to see the 3D effect.”

“3D TV with perfect auto-stereo is the answer – if only the image would show parallax shifts like a real scene as the viewer’s head changes position.”

“3D TV is the answer to achieving immersive reality – if only the image focal plane would shift with the object’s position.” 

If only we could do all this, then indeed we might be on the way to having the great technology advance that leads the way to a generation of new display products; the technology that make consumers want to rush out and replace their existing flat-panel TVs and computer monitors. 

But we can’t!

At the recent SID Display Week, there were many demonstrations of the latest advances in 3D technology.  I was especially interested in the half-dozen or so new products that showed auto-stereo images.  By some industry pundits, this is considered to be the holy grail of 3D technology because it will eliminate the need for either active or passive glasses.  It would certainly be a step in the right direction if the viewing experience were as good as with the glasses.  But so far, it is not even close to approaching that level of “goodness”.  All of the demonstrations that I saw had serious limitations.  The viewer had to be positioned in one of several “sweet spots” to see the 3D effect.  That in itself presents a serious limitation.  However, the real problem I observed with every one of these displays was that as I moved my head from the center of a sweet spot to where the stereo effect was beginning to disappear, I experienced severe eyestrain.  It was bad enough to make me feel dizzy and I needed to look away to regain my bearings.  Apparently, as one eye was leaving the zone of the 3D sweet spot and the other eye was still within the zone, a visual conflict was created that caused the eyestrain that was so bothersome.  

My conclusion from seeing these demonstrations was that this technology is not yet ready for serious product applications.  There may be some early 3D applications for hand-held games.  But if these displays are used for extended periods by children there could be undesirable side effects on their still developing visual systems. 

Currently, both the display industry and the motion picture industry seem to be in a mad rush to push ahead with stereo 3D in the hopes of creating the next generation of hot new products that will dominate the marketplace.  But as we have noted before in these columns, the path to 3D stereo is not going to be the same as the path that led us to HDTV. 

On June 2, I presented a talk at a conference put on by the Vision Performance Institute of Pacific University.  My talk covered many of the challenges that will be faced in bringing 3D products to market.  Should you wish to review the slides from my talk you may do so by clicking here on 3D Presentation.   

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on how you think this technology will evolve and when, or if, it will become a mainstream viewing experience.  You may reach me directly from this site, by e-mail at, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.