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How Does a 3D TV work? Understanding 3D TV Technology

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Jonathan Wylie•updated: 8/28/2010

Planning to buy a 3D TV set? This article on 3D TV technology will allow you to appreciate what makes 3D viewing possible on television and touches on the possible arrival of glassless 3D TV viewing.

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    3D has become the buzz word in the entertainment world, especially after the phenomenal success of Avatar. The buzz has now been carried over to the home entertainment world with major television set manufacturers announcing the production of 3D television sets.

    While many are excited about the arrival of a new revolution in television viewing they are not so clear about what 3D TV technology is all about. This article will discuss the 3D TV technology currently in use and one that’s slated for the future.

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    The 3D Illusion

    First of all let us look at how it’s possible to view moving pictures on television in 3D. It’s actually our two eyes that help us make 3D vision possible. The two sets of images that our eyes capture from the cinema or TV screen is sent to our brains which pieces them together to form a single 3D image.

    3D cinema and TV takes advantage of this potential of the eyes by offering slightly differing images to the left eye and the right eye. When this happens there’s the simulation of 3D images we are used to viewing in the real world. Essentially the brain is `tricked’ into thinking that it’s actually looking at a three dimensional image.

    Let’s now take a look at the various types of 3D TV technology.

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    The Anaglyph 3D Technology

    This 3D technology has been around for quite a while. To view an image in 3D you would need glasses with a different color filter for each eye – red filter for one eye and blue for the other.

    Anaglyph 3D viewing is even possible on a standard definition TV with these glasses. However, the quality usually leaves much to be desired. For one, you can’t see 3D images in full color and even then, fine details appear fuzzy.

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    Active 3D Technology

    This is the technology used for 3D HD televisions. It offers a much superior viewing experience compared to anaglyph 3D. However, shutter glasses are needed to make 3D viewing possible. These glasses are expensive (about $100) and heavier compared to anaglyph glasses. The lenses are of the liquid crystal type and come with electronic circuitry and batteries designed to sync with the 3D TV set through an infrared signal.

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    Parallax Barrier 3D Technology

    The attraction of this technology is that you don’t need glasses to view 3D moving images. The parallel barrier 3D technology is in popular use in handheld gaming devices like the new Nintendo 3DS.

    There’s a major drawback with this technology though. You have to position yourself correctly to get a clear view of images in 3D. While this is not a problem while looking at the smaller screens of handheld devices, it would limit viewing pleasure when you’re before a large screen television.

    This may be the technology for future 3D TV if television manufacturers work on ways to widen viewing angles in the interest of selling the concept of glassless 3D TV viewing. At the time of writing, news has broken out that Toshiba is working on 3D TV sets that don’t require glasses for viewing. Three models are expected to be unveiled before Christmas 2010 and are set to be priced at around $7000. Watch this space.