Curve widens 3D display

March 24/31, 2004

Although three-dimensional screens have been around in different forms for decades, they generally have downsides. Some types require glasses, and those that don't usually cannot be viewed from much more than a 15-degree angle or are fairly dim.

Researchers from Seoul National University in Korea have showed that using curved lenses doubles the viewing angle of three-dimensional integral imaging systems without sacrificing brightness.

The technique could eventually be used for three-dimensional billboards and three-dimensional television, according to the researchers.

Integrated imaging systems project sections of images through an array of lenses. The sections are combined, or integrated, at a point in front of the display to produce a 3D image. These displays have a limited viewing angle because the image sections must be wider the farther they are from the center of the display, and can be only so wide before they overlap.

The researchers' prototype uses a lens array that is curved rather than flat. This increase is the viewing angle because the lenses are angle around the viewer, which helps keep the image sections proportional.

There is some work to be done before the method is ready for prime time, however, according to the researchers. In order to present an image free of gaps between image sections, the screen must be slightly curved as well. Technologies like plastic electronics and electronic paper are poised to deliver flexible screens.

The technique could be used in applications like three-dimensional advertising displays within two to four years. Three-dimensional television systems are at least a decade away, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the February 9, 2004 issue of Optics Express.

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