Glasses-Free 3D in 4K is Here, So How Does It Look?

We get a first look at Ultra-D 3D, and we're not wearing glasses.


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The first thing that hits you when you watch 3D content with the naked eye is a brief swell of confusion. Like most of us, your relationship with 3D content has probably involved a wide array of glasses, be they red-and-cyan anaglyph glasses, recycled plastic frames at the movie theater, or higher-end glasses that ship with 3D TVs.

Stream TV is hoping to change that.

Today, on the third floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, we entered a room with two 4K TVs: one displaying a collage of various content both old and new, and another featuring an alpha build of an independent video game called Solus by Teotl Studios. Both displays were rendering content in 3D and none of the onlookers were fumbling with glasses.

The Philadelphia-based company is hoping their Ultra-D technology reinvents the way consumers play video games, the way companies advertise, and the way people consume 3D content.

While 2D-to-3D conversion dominated the discussion, Stream TV's ultimate goal is to encourage the production of native 3D content with Ultra-D.

Credit: // Michael Desjardin

Virtually anything can be converted to Ultra-D 3D, including decades-old content.

So, how does glasses-free 3D stack up against the tried and true bespectacled method?

It's certainly dazzling, but not without a few hang-ups.

Glasses-free 3D is certainly dazzling, but not without a few hang-ups.

As objects, people, and landscapes move in and out of focus, I occasionally noticed a warping effect which seemed to turn the image inside-out.

If, for example, a lizard was nestled atop a rock with more rocks in the distance, the out-of-focus rocks in the distance occasionally popped in front of the lizard in the foreground. This magnifying effect wasn't static, so as the shot continued, the objects in the foreground and background would shift back and forth.

Viewing angle is a concern, too, and although this has been the case with 3D TV for some time, never has it been so apparent.

As you move about the room with your eyes focused on the screen, you'll notice ripples move across the image like the waves on the surface of a lake. In fact, unless you're standing completely still, it's difficult to notice the 3D effect at all. Simply put, it's never been more critical to grab the coveted front-and-center seat in the living room.

Credit: // Michael Desjardin

Users can adjust the amount of depth in real time.

All of that said, it's hard not to get at least a little bit giddy about the possibilities Stream TV is asking us to consider.

It really does look as though you're peering through the scope of a gun or through the visor of a futuristic helmet.

The heads-up display featured in Solus was easily the most impressive aspect of the technology that I experienced. Gamers receive information–ammo, health, navigation markers–on top of and apart from everything else in the picture. It really does look as though you're peering through the scope of a gun or through the visor of a futuristic helmet.

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At the press conference, VP of Business Development Bud Robertson discussed the company's ongoing talks with professional sports leagues. Stream TV is already testing real-time 2D-to-3D conversion for sports broadcasts. Imagine watching a Major League Baseball player smoke a line drive to center field in 3D. Now imagine that no one in your living room is fighting over the last pair of glasses when it happens.

The technology is there. It's not perfect, but it's there. And if Stream TV is correct, 3D TV isn't dead, it's just getting started.

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