Simulating the third dimension is something of a Holy Grail for cinema and television. The key advantage of 3-D film over the conventional two dimensions is the illusion of depth and the sense of ‘body’ the viewer experiences – as if the action is leaping out of the screen rather than occurring within it.
“The mobile market has always been much more dynamic and receptive to new technologies than the television market, as the whole idea of mobility is based on dynamism,” explains Atanas Gotchev, the scientific coordinator of the EU-funded Mobile3DTV project.
The story of 3-D television for mobile phones has been one punctuated by stops and starts. As early as 2003, Sharp launched a 3-D mobile phone in Japan and Korea’s SK Telecom launched a 3-D phone – from Samsung – in 2007, and Japan’s Hitachi just launched one in 2009. But the big challenges have been the paucity of content and coming up with a profitable business model. Apple’s iPhone also supports three-dimensional television, but can currently only be viewed with special glasses.
Mobile3DTV is developing the core elements of the next generation of three-dimensional television for mobile devices. “One major challenge is choosing the optimal format for representing 3-D video for mobile delivery,” Gotchev points out. The format should be adopted ideally by all industrial players to avoid a ‘formats war’, he suggests. For that reason, the project decided to build its system around the EU standard known as Digital Video Broadcasting – Handheld (DVB-H).
“Another challenge is to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable 3-D viewing experience," adds Gotchev. Mobile3DTV is employing so-called auto-stereoscopic displays, which produce 3-D images that do not require those awkward glasses to view them – which is good news for people who want to be incognito about their mobile viewing.
“Auto-stereoscopic displays use additional optical elements aligned on the surface of an LCD, to ensure that the observer sees different images with each eye,” explains Gotchev. “As mobile devices are normally watched by a single observer, two independent views are sufficient for satisfactory 3-D perception.”
“We have access to probably the most advanced 3-D portable display – one delivered by the Japanese giant NEC LCD,” says Gotchev.
Mobile3DTV is funded under the ICT strand of the EU’s Framework Programme for research.
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