Sony and RealD have been working together to show off 3D content quite often in 2009 – during Sony’s keynote at CES 2009, they showed off several movie trailers in 3D. Sony and RealD showed off 3D again at the CES booth with the PS3, and also during the BCS Championship Game aired live in 3D at the theater in the Paris Hotel at Las Vegas. I’ve seen all of those experiences, and they were incredible, but what was really fascinating to me was those were all simple polarized solutions. Sony really shocked alot of people recently when they announced that they would be fully embracing 3D in 2010, employing active shutter 3D glasses to deliver an unparalleled entertainment experience. Not many people understand the science behind this ongoing revolution in 3D technology.
Active (LCD) shutter glasses are glasses used in conjunction with a display screen to create the illusion of a three dimensional image, an example of stereoscopy. When you watch a TV with these glasses, you get a true sense of dimensionality. The glasses contain liquid crystal and a polarizing filter that has the property to become dark when voltage is applied, but are otherwise transparent. The glasses are controlled by IR, RF, BT transmitters that send timing signals to that little dot between the eyepieces of the glasses, by a device like the one pointed out by the arrow in the picture above taken at Sony’s booth at CEDIA EXPO 2009. The glasses alternately darken over one eye, and then the other, in synchronization with the refresh rate of the screen, while the display alternately displays different perspectives for each eye, using a technique called alternate-frame sequencing.
In the picture below, you can see that these glasses have channels A and B, and an option to turn off the 3D mode.
It’s amusing is that when you see these glasses they seem mostly ordinary, but have such unique technology within.
I found the experience to be satisfying, but obviously it was still a demonstration at this time – in my opinion it felt like it was very close to the final product. I’m not so sure how much farther they could tweak things to truly make it work better after what I have seen earlier this year. There was definitely a sense of dimensionality around people moving around, such as when they showed a football match in 3D. It’s hard to explain the experience, but moving objects do pop out at you, enabling a sense of direction in the viewing experience that was previously impossible. They also showed Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune footage, with gameplay, and I really felt that 3D gaming on the PS3 combined with a super accurate motion controller could be really mind blowing. The 3D experience I saw with the BCS Championship Game in the theater was much more impressive than the LCD screen experience, though. A smaller 3D presentation is just not as overwhelming as a large screen theater.
What makes it additionally tough is that you want to enjoy any of this in the future, your current TV will not be compatible with this 3D technology and you will have to buy a 3D equipped Bravia.
What’s strange is that RealD only sells the CrystalEyes 3 (ugly) and 5 (very similar to these)on their site, but the glasses at Sony’s CEDIA EXPO 2009 booth was CrystalEyes 4. I’d never used these type of 3D glasses before, and very similar models are listed for $600 on RealD’s site. It will be very interesting to see how much Sony are going to sell glasses like these for, and what kind of partnership they will have with RealD when they go to retail. It obviously can’t be cheap. It would be very cool to see something like this become so mainstream that fashion designers adopt the glasses, and you see like Gucci, Prada, D&G glasses with this technology.
These active shutter 3D glasses are definitely more stylish than before, though. Check out this ancient picture from 1994, from an unknown event in New York that I dug up with Filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud, ex-basketball star Magic Johnson & at the time, Sony of America CEO Michael Schulhof all wearing huge active-shutter headsets. You can see the receiver circle at the top. Could you imagine if those were still around today? Thank god things have toned down a bit.