Glasses-free 3D is the talk of the town at IFA 2011 [Video]

Glasses-free 3D is more than just a tongue-tripper – it’s very likely the future of 3D home entertainment. And some of the models we saw at IFA 2011 will be available to buy before the end of 2011.

However, the quality of the 3D effect wasn’t spot-on in a number of the cases we saw, and while it’s interesting to chart the rise of this technology, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of development left to do.

Sony’s 3D laptop screen

For glasses-free 3D on a smaller scale, Sony showed off its 3D laptop panel accessory at IFA 2011, which will be compatible with around half a dozen Sony Vaio laptops.

The screen itself will cost around 120 Euros when it’s released later this year, and it clips onto the laptop screen to create a 3D effect that doesn’t require glasses.

To create the 3D effect, the laptop uses its built-in webcam to track the face of the viewer, optimising the display so you will get a sense of 3D even as your viewing angle changes. The downside is, it can only perform this way for one face at a time, so you can’t sit with a friend and both enjoy a 3D display.

Our verdict on the display we saw? The detail was rather lacking in sharpness, and the sense of depth was nothing to get excited about. Also, we can’t help but feel that an additional slip-on panel is something of a stop-gap before this sort of technology is integrated into the screen itself.

LG’s glasses-free 3D monitor

Painful, painful stuff. On the one hand, yes, LG has managed to manufacture a market-ready glasses-free 3D computer monitor. On the other hand, sitting in front of the sample we saw at IFA was a misery.

The D2000 monitor uses eye-tracking technology via a built-in webcam, allowing it to focus its 3D effect in the direction of the person viewing it.

However, our experience of watching 3D gaming footage on the monitor wasn’t encouraging. Fast-moving subjects were a painful blur, detail was poor, and subjects at the very forefront of the field of view were a complete eyesore. Our verdict? On the basis of that demonstration, this isn’t a winner.

Philips show off a prototype

For something larger than a 3D monitor or laptop screen, Philips had a 55-inch prototype glasses-free display. The screen itself was housed in a wall-space, so there was no view of the bezel or even model number.

The 3D effect was significantly better than the Sony or LG offerings – hardly surprising given the larger screen size. Detail was decent, though noticeably frayed around the edges of moving subjects, and the colouring was sharp and nicely-contrasted. There was noticeable blurring and distortion around the edges of the screen, however.

As for the sense of depth? Impressive stuff, provided you’re directly head-on. Philips included a small reference line at the bottom of the TV showing you where to position your line of sight. Handy, but perhaps not ideal for a living room viewing experience.

Toshiba hits the market first

While Philips’ screen was only a prototype, Toshiba stole a march on its rivals with the ZL2 glasses-free TV. This 55-inch model will be ready to buy before the end of the year. Provided you can spare £8000 for the privilege.

The model we saw didn’t blow us away with the level of sharpness (Toshiba’s claims of “double HD quality” may need some closer examination). The colour was somewhat oversaturated, though this may have been deliberately pumped-up for the sake of the crowds looking for a demonstration.

And the 3D effect itself? Reasonable, but not as good as what we’ve seen from glasses-based 3D screens. Though the ZL2 at least had the edge on the Philips screen in that you didn’t have to be perfectly head-on to enjoy the 3D effect.

Without doubt glasses-free 3D is a work in progress, and there’s little sense rushing to be the first manufacturer to bring models to the market if the technology itself isn’t all it can be. We’d anticipate that glasses-free 3D is going to keep on improving over the coming years – for now, our advice would be hold onto your £8000.

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