Not much has changed in the 3D film universe since "Avatar" came out seven years ago. Not much has changed in the 3D film universe since "Avatar" came out seven years ago. Not much has changed in the 3D film universe since "Avatar" came out seven years ago. (Photo: Lightstorm Entertainment)

Will we soon be watching movies in 3D without the glasses?

A team of researchers think they've come up with a way to do just that.

When the film "Avatar" was released in 2009, filmgoers rightly expected a new, more advanced era of 3D film to be ushered in. Unfortunately, that hasn't quite been the case. It's now 2016, and little has changed in the interim. For one, we're still stuck wearing the same uncomfortable shades.

But finally – finally! – there might be some movement on that front. A team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science has developed a way for movie-going audiences to watch films in 3D without the eyewear.

Known as "Cinema 3D," the technology uses a series of 50 lenses and mirrors to create a sense of depth to the images seen on the screen for each viewer.

The concept isn't totally new. TVs with built-in 3D use a similar technology, but having to take into account the various angles of view afforded people in their living rooms depletes the resolution quality. Working together, the American and Israeli minds of MIT and the Weizmann Institute ingeniously realized that this wouldn't be the case in a movie theater, where people are all generally sitting in fixed seats.

“Existing approaches to glasses-free 3D require screens whose resolution requirements are so enormous that they are completely impractical,” said MIT professor Wojciech Matusik, one of the co-authors on a paper about the concept along with Netalee Efrat from the Weizmann Institute. “This is the first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3D on a large scale.”

Before jumping up and down in excitement, you shouldn’t expect Cinema 3D to be arriving at a theater near you anytime soon. The only current working model is about the size of an iPad; the prototype is on display this week at a tech conference in California.

“It remains to be seen whether the approach is financially feasible enough to scale up to a full-blown theater,” said Matusik. “But we are optimistic that this is an important next step in developing glasses-free 3D for large spaces like movie theaters and auditoriums.”


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