The hottest topics at CES 2011 were, without a shadow of a doubt, tablets and 3D. Pocket-lint's already told you about all the tablets and, as an overall picture, we've even described the show in 3D but there's a subsection of the latter which made a bigger impact and appearance than most people thought it would - 3D, but without the glasses.
Autostereoscopic, or non-glasses based 3D, TV sets and technology has been around for a while but none of it commercially available. Until this year, it's remained the stuff of prototypes with just a few viewing angles to shout about. 2011's Vegas tech binge, though, has brought us plenty of news of real, genuine products that we'll be able to get our hands on in the not too distant future. So, here are the top 10 glasses-free 3D gadgets we saw at the show.
Sony 10.1-inch portable 3D Blu-ray player
Using a LCD screen, this portable 3D Blu-ray player looked almost ready for sale. The resolution, which measures 1366 x 768 pixels (AKA HD-ready) is an issue since only half of that is shown to each eye, but in practice the 3D effect was impressive when viewed head-on.
LG 4.3-inch 3D LCD smartphone
Hiding away on LG’s monumentally-sized booth we found a “technology display”, CES-speak for a prototype - and often next year’s products. The actual device was hidden and only the screen was visible, but this concept claimed to have Full HD resolution. Detail wasn’t its strong point, though, but with just enough viewing angles, smartphones like this little gem are the future, no question. Claims to shift from 2D to 3D quickly, and be ultra-thin.
Toshiba 56- & 65-inch 3DTVs
Toshiba surprised everyone by unleashing these two monster autostereoscopic screens, but what really shocked the CES is that the company plans to sell them towards the end of 2011. There's still plenty of work to do on improving the viewing angles (only around nine distinct positions reveal a bonafide 3D image) but these were hugely impressive debuts from a brand that also unveiled its first passive 3DTVs.
LG 50-inch 3DTV
Hugely impressive - perhaps more so than Toshiba's 56-inch and 65-inch models - this prototype can only display 3D content from 3D Blu-ray and broadcast 3D TV. A tad blurry and with visible pixilation from the recommended 10 feet away (another issue) we were nevertheless surprised when an LG spokesperson told us that it was 3-to-5 years away from going on sale.
Sharp 3.8-inch & 10.6-inch 3D LCD TVs
Both prototypes, these two are destined for very different markets. With smartphones and tablets the presumed intention, Sharp's duo are switchable between 2D and 3D since they use parallax barriers that can show different images to each eye during 3D viewing, then become transparent for 2D content.
Sony 24.5-inch 3D OLED TV
Sporting a similar monolith design to the current batch of Bravias, this is perhaps the most desirable 3D screen at the CES. There was visible pixilation on the 1920 x 1080 panel, but from just a few feet away the depth, colour and contrast was excellent. Even the viewing angles were much wider than the black footprints on the carpet suggested.
LG Displays 7-inch mobile 3D DTV
Housed on an entirely separate and tiny booth in the CES’s Central Hall we found this 7-inch mobile digital TV. Complete with antennae, this rounded unit uses the side-by-side digital 3DTV system and switchable parallax barrier 3D tech; on the stand it was receiving a 3D broadcast from KLVX-MDTV, a public broadcaster in Las Vegas. The 3D image, measuring 416 x 240 pixels and upscaled to 800 x 400, appeared indistinct, but with a core 3D depth.
Sony MHS-FS3 Bloggie 3D HD camera
One of the few no glasses 3D gadgets slated for actual sale, Sony’s Bloggie captures Full HD 3D or 2D videos in MP4 format which can be viewed in 3D either on the 2.4-inch LCD on the device itself - with no 3D glasses required - or routed into a 3DTV for watching with glasses on (unless you buy one of Toshiba’s tellies, we suppose). It’ll also capture 5MP stills and up to 4 hours of footage onto its 8GB internal memory. Best of all, it should be out in spring for $250, so no pie in the sky here.
Toshiba personal 3D laptop
Based on the same panels developed for the brand’s 12- and 20-inch glasses-free 3DTVs that were showing, Toshiba also demoed its prototype 3D laptop for us. Uniquely, it’s possible to see a 3D image from anywhere, though the removal of the problem of restricted viewing angles brings another issue - only one person can see a 3D image. It does this by using the laptop’s webcam to track the movement of your eyes and adjusting the light output accordingly. It’s brilliantly innovative, though not yet 100 per cent effective - we noticed quite a few cracks in the effect as well as some blurring on one side.
3DFusion 42-inch 3DTV
Based on the technology used by Philips in its WOWvx screens that were seen at trade shows for yonks before the company stopped development, 3DFusion’s autostereoscopic TVs were showing at the Stratosphere Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Intended for the digital signage (i.e. advertising) industry for now, 3DFusion nevertheless demoed its 42-inch screen with live 3D capture, as well as 2D-to-3D processing on-the-fly.