Researchers Have Created a 3D Movie Screen That Doesn’t Need Glasses

Goodbye, goofy goggles.

3D movie glasses may be on the outs (Photo: anthonysp/Getty Images)

This week at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference in California, a team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science is presenting a paper about a prototype they’ve developed for cinematic autostereoscopy—or to the layman, a movie screen that doesn’t require you to don dorky glasses to enjoy a 3D movie on the big screen.

Previously we’ve seen handheld gaming devices, laptops and even fancy flat screen TVs that attempted to offer glasses-free 3D, with varying success. But this innovative new system, dubbed Cinema 3D, uses a narrow range of angular images displayed through an intricate array of mirrors and lenses. Essentially, it serves up one solid 3D experience and then replicates that to each and every seat in a full-sized movie theater.

The team’s current prototype requires 50 sets of mirrors and lenses and is about the size of a pad of paper. So as MIT professor Wojciech Matusik (one of the paper’s co-authors) puts it, “It remains to be seen whether the approach is financially feasible enough to scale up to a full-blown theater. 

But we are optimistic that this is an important next step in developing glasses-free 3-D for large spaces like movie theaters and auditoriums.”

Translated: It ain’t gonna be ready for Star Wars Episode VIII, but maybe Episode IX?