MIT scientists have developed a new system that can allow users to watch 3D movies at home without having to wear inconvenient special glasses.
While 3D movies continue to be popular in theatres, they have not made the leap to our homes just yet.
Theatres generally either use special polarised light or project a pair of images that create a simulated sense of depth. To actually get the 3D effect, though, users have to wear glasses, which have proven too inconvenient to create much of a market for 3D TVs.
Now, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US aim to change that with "Home3D," a new system that converts traditional 3D movies from stereo into a format that is compatible with so-called "automultiscopic displays."
These displays are rapidly improving in resolution and show great potential for home theatre systems, researchers said.
"Automultiscopic displays are not as popular as they could be because they can not actually play the stereo formats that traditional 3D movies use in theatres," said Petr Kellnhofer, from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).
"By converting existing 3D movies to this format, our system helps open the door to bringing 3-D TVs into people's homes," Kellnhofer said.
Home3D can run in real-time on a graphics-processing unit (GPU), meaning it could run on a system such as an Xbox or a PlayStation. The team said that in the future Home3D could take the form of a chip that could be put into TVs or media players such as Google's Chromecast.
The algorithms for Home3D also let users customise the viewing experience, dialling up or down the desired level of 3D for any given movie, researchers said.
In a user study involving clips from movies including "The Avengers" and "Big Buck Bunny," participants rated Home3D videos as higher quality 60 per cent of the time, compared to 3D videos converted with other approaches.
Home3D converts 3D movies from "stereoscopic" to "multi-view" video, which means that, rather than showing just a pair of images, the screen displays three or more images that simulate what the scene looks like from different locations.
As a result, each eye perceives what it would see while really being at a given location inside the scene. This allows the brain to naturally compute the depth in the image.