3D + 4K = 3DTV Without Glasses?


that is 3D television, a
new potential intersection
of technologies is giving
engineers reasons to
hope for an eyewear-free
viewing environment.

The hope is this: that
the extra resolution that
comes with “4K” video
could eventually obviate
the technical difficulties associated with
“autostereoscopic” 3D viewing on TV.

Translation: Autostereoscopic is
tech-talk for no glasses. With apologies
to purists and people who know
Latin, it breaks down like this: “auto”
as in “matic”; “stereo” as in “both”;
“scopic” as in “eyes.”

Those of us who spend a week every
January pushing through the Consumer
Electronics Show know that so far, autostereoscopic
3DTV isn’t something we’d
really want to snuggle up to in our living
rooms. Watching it requires keeping the
head fairly still. Forget about horizontal
viewing, like from the couch or recliner.

Refresher: Making 3DTVs that work
without eyewear is hard, because what’s
needed is more (lots more) than two
camera angles, one for each eye. And
each additional camera “view” divides
the resolution. Experts have noted that
living-room-grade autostereoscopic 3DTV
could require picture resolution as much
as 100 times greater than HD.

Enter “4K,” which emerged at this
year’s CES as a complete visual stunner.

What’s four thousand about 4K is the
resolution: just about 4,000 horizontal
pixels. State-of-the-state in mainstream
HDTV resolution right now is 1,920 by
1080, where the 1,920 is the horizontal
pixels and the 1,080 the vertical pixels.
So, 1,080 rows by 1,920 columns.

Double the resolution is hardly 100
times, but still, progress is progress.

This is all fun to imagine, of course,
and timely because 4K was among the
technologies shown off at the recent
National Association of Broadcasters
convention. Glasses-free 3D could
easily refresh the category, if it looks
as good as HD and doesn’t require an
investment of $50 to $100 every time
you sit down and hear a sad crunch of
breaking plastic.

But then there are the other realities
— bandwidth comes to mind. Even
using the best compression on the
market today (which goes variously by
H.264, AVC and MPEG-4), a 4K stream
requires as much as 17 Megabits per
secon d to convey, over wires or wireless,
to get from where it started, to that
glasses-free screen.

One! More! Time! Bandwidth is not
unlimited, nor is it free. As it is, we as
smartphone, tablet and laptop users
are chewing up bandwidth at alarming
rates. “Alarming” meaning 45% to 50%
compound annual growth in broadband
usage, everywhere.

That’s a marathon at a sprint pace.
Suggestion: Go do something nice for
your bandwidth planners.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis