As demonstrated by the sharp decline in people giving a damn over the last two years, 3D isn't quite the transcendent experience everyone wanted it to be, but with minds like Sharp's 3D expert Jonathan Mather on the case it could lead to the true revolution in entertainment: holographic 3D.
Mather, a research supervisor in the optical imaging and display systems group at Sharp Labs Europe, is working at making 3D better. He envisions a future where there are no glasses, no parallax displays with limited viewing angles; a future where you've got a screen, and it is in 3D, no fuss, no muss. He's sees current headache-inducing developments in 3D technology as part of the bigger picture, a stepping stone to something greater.
Humans Invent spoke to Mather recently on the ultimate future of 3D technology.
"I think a sensible target is for 3D displays to become a natural part of modern life," Mather explains to Humans Invent. "Home cinema systems showing 3D movies, computer games played in an immersive environment and holiday photos presented with depth.
When I think about what is needed to do this it seems clear that 3D displays must ‘just work', with no 3D glasses and without any restrictions on head position. Head tracked systems can provide such a solution for tablets and smartphones and multi-view optics can provide it for televisions. The necessary technological components exist, we just need to put them all together and organise television broadcasting standards and so on.
So the seeds have been sewn for the 3D technology that will allow me to see a movie in 3D without feeling like a dork wearing two pairs of glasses (yes, you heard I like glasses). It's just going to be awhile before that happens.
"If you were to ask me when we might see this technology I would say that some early efforts already exist, but they are far from fully developed. I might speculate that tablet and smartphone displays should develop rapidly and mature over the next 2 to 6 years, and multi-view television 5 to 15 years.
Once the problem of delivering 3D naturally to a mass audience has been tackled, then we can start thinking about true holographic displays.
We already have holograms, but they are a primitive parlor trick compared to the sort of technology that could be commonplace in as little as 40 years, according to Mather's estimates. Today's 3D keeps (or at least attempts to keep) the images in focus, which is lovely for watching a film, but it's a far cry from how our eyes actually function.
A true holographic display would need to render every last detail down to the focus of light and how it interacts with objects in a scene in order to be indistinguishable from reality. "We may have to put together another 40 years of technical progress before we gain the benefits of such a display," Mather said.
That's fine. We need to focus on making 3D a technology a majority of people prefer first. Once that's out of the way it's hologram time, baby, just in time for me to be incredibly old and / or dead. Woo.
The 3D journey: Inventing a real-life holodeck [Humans Invent]