Consequently, there isn’t much dedicated content around for auto-stereoscopic TVs apart from dedicated tech demos or adverts. However, Motajcsek claims this doesn’t matter too much, as converting stereoscopic 3D signals for use with auto-stereoscopic panels works well. ‘2D to 3D is a guessing game,' says Motajcsek, 'as the content isn’t originally made with 3D in mind, but if you already have two views (as with a standard stereoscopic feed), you can use an algorithm to create extra cameras relatively successfully.
‘We have to do this in real time, though, which is the challenge. We have only 33ms per frame to do all the calculations and conversions we need.' It’s obvious, then, that this kind of on-the-fly translation has the potential to require a relatively hefty amount of computational power.
iPont currently uses a small form factor PC to perform the on-the-fly conversion, but it hopes to integrate the algorithm into TVs in the future
‘It’s done on the graphics processor rather than the CPU and requires a big GPU, was the only hint we got about what jiggery pokery was going on in the box next to us, as the company wouldn't reveal whether it was an Nvidia or ATI GPU doing the leg-work inside the case. We did, however, manage to stick our hand behind what iPont is currently calling its 3D TV Box to confirm that the GPU was a dual-slot model that was kicking out a fair amount of heat when converting the video stream.
This appears to indicate that iPont’s dream of performing this kind of conversion on a chip inside the TV is a little way off yet, despite transistors getting continually smaller and more efficient. We also can’t help feeling that needing this kind of power on tap local to the TV is likely to be a problem for those wishing to have an auto-stereoscopic experience in their living room.
iPont sees glasses-free technology being a big hit in public spaces where it's impractical to hand out glasses
So how was the actual effect of glasses-free 3DTV? Well, right now the answer to that is that it's ‘just about okay.' There were three screens of various sizes and views running different content at the event, and the quality of the image on each one varied. The effect was much more subtle and immersive on the small eight-view screen than it was on the large five-view screen, but this is to be expected as artefacts and noticeable defects were larger and more obvious on the bigger screen.
This is partly because iPont still has some polishing to do on its algorithm; it’s not yet ready for market. ‘We’re still developing it,’ said Motajcsek. ‘We recognise it’s not perfect yet; we still have some work to do. I’d say we were about 95 per cent of the way there.’ Motajcsek also suggests there is some work to do for manufacturers on the hardware side too. ‘These TVs that we’re using here at this show are from some of the smaller players in the market,' says Motajcsek. 'We’re really waiting for some of the larger players like Sony and LG to release auto-stereoscopic screens so we can see what we can do with them.’
Regardless of the slight imperfections we saw in the test footage at the show, we were still impressed with what we saw, although the technology is more adept at providing depth to scenes than making things pop out at you. Auto-stereoscopic 3D is unlikely to be in your living room any time in the next 12 months - high panel costs and the lack of content will see to that - but it's clear that glasses-free 3D is possible. Once you get to drop the silly shades, it's far more likely that people will become enthusiastic about 3D.