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Sony responds to 3D glasses complaints

Glasses-free has "inherent limitations".

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Image credit: Eurogamer

Glasses-free stereoscopic 3D has "inherent limitations", Sony has said.

Responding to complaints about having to wear glasses to view games and movies in stereoscopic 3D, the PlayStation 3 manufacturer explained why it's the best solution – and will be for a good while.

"There are already glasses-free TVs, big screens and small screens out there," Mick Hocking, Sony's 3D gaming boss, told Eurogamer at the Develop conference this week.

"The problem with glasses-free, or auto-stereoscopic as it's called, is that it has inherent limitations.

"With stereoscopic 3D, however you do it, you've got to get one image to the left eye and one image to the right eye to produce the stereoscopic effect. So with all these screens they typically have a sweet spot for where you need to put your head in distance and in angle, and if you move your head relative to it, you break the 3D effect until you get into the next pair of images, and you see artefacts going across the screen.

"We've also seen with mobile devices, if it's a mobile device you move relative to your head and it's got a 3D screen, that will break the 3D effect. It won't work very well.

"There's lots and lots of work going on on auto-stereoscopic screens because people wearing glasses is something extra for them to do to enjoy the content. We've been saying over the last 12 months, if the content is good enough and compelling enough, the only way at the moment to enjoy full high definition 3D is on TVs with the glasses."

In March Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung doubted glasses-free 3DTVs would be released within the next 10 years.

"Considering our current technology, we can make glasses-free 3DTV in R&D level, however it can be viewed from only a few viewing spots," Samsung said.

"To make naturally viewed glasses-free 3DTV, for instance in a living room where several people can watch TV from various angles, it needs at least 32 viewing spots.

"We believe that creating a prototype for lab-grade glasses-free 3DTV, broadcasting system and display will take about five years.

"For mass commercialisation to become possible manufacturing costs must come down and TV broadcasters will have to upgrade infrastructure, which includes securing transmission band.

"Attempts to put glasses-free 3DTV to market within the next 10 years will be difficult."

Sony has of course bet big on stereoscopic 3D, investing heavily in the tech for its TVs, movies and gaming on the PlayStation 3.

But for many, having to wear active-shutter glasses to see 3D visuals turns them off to the tech.

In October last year a study suggested 80 per cent of gamers were willing to wear 3D glasses to play video games, and Hocking told us the glasses are getting better.

"The glasses are getting cheaper and lighter all the time, and less invasive in the process," he said.

"With the way it's going, you could see a point in the future where someone will come up with a way of doing glasses-free technology without any of the restrictions.

"At the moment, if you want to sit there and watch a film or play a game, if you keep your head still you could do it on a glasses free. It would be OK. Then if your family or friends want to sit and watch it with you they can't share that experience with you at the moment.

"So it's not an easy problem to solve. Certainly in the short term, HD 3D is best enjoyed on an active shutter glass solution and big screen TV, and that's what we've been focusing on."

According to latest statistics, about 2.5 per cent of HDTVs in the UK are now 3D, and data suggests by 2015 nearly 40 per cent of all new TVs sold will be 3D-enabled.

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