ITRI Launches µ-retarder

Not many people know that Taiwan started R&D efforts in 3D display technology 10 years ago. Although it seemed that Taiwan did not have the competence to develop advanced display technologies at that time—nor even manufacture LCD panels at the initial stage—the Image Optics System Division of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) pioneered in 3D display R&D. Now ITRI has launched the patented micro-retardation film (µ-retarder) technology, which it describes as the solution for achieving real 3D display at the lowest cost.

"3D display technology is usually divided into four parts: orientation, video processing, encoding/decoding and display technologies," said Tsai Chao-Hsu, project manager of the 3D display department under the Image Optics System Division. In orientation technology, ITRI started R&D of laser scanning technology 10 years ago, but shifted to 3D imaging display. Today ITRI is cooperating with Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, United States, on multiview imaging research.

Greatest achievement
ITRI began 3D display technology R&D nine years ago. "Our greatest achievement is the µ-retarder," said Tsai. Briefly, µ-retardation involves directing polarised light rays through a glass-based optical thin film, the retarder, consisting of horizontal or vertical stripes with alternating null and half-wave phase retardation. The light is split and the left and right eyes of the viewer receive complimentary images that combine to form a 3D image in the users' eyes".

Current technologies enabling 2D and 3D imaging presents a 3D image to a viewer wearing 3D glasses, and a 2D image to the viewer without glasses. This is a low-cost way to bring 3D technology to homes. Tsai said, "With slightly more cost, users can play 3D games and watch movies at home, with glasses. It seems the most feasible household 3D display solution currently." He added that "Although 'naked-eye' is the ultimate goal of 3D display, glasses-type 3D display will remain the mainstream technology for the next three to five years."

Rival technologies
Several 3D and video compression technologies have emerged such as Philips' 2D+Depth and the Multi View Coding technology from "Iz3D, a joint-venture company established jointly by Chi Mei Optoelectronics of Taiwan and NeurokOptics of the U.S. has already developed a 3D display," explained Tsai. "But its product uses two LCDs, and the price for a 22-inch display is about Rs.39,420.51 ($999). Compared with such product, our solution is expected to provide a more competitive solution in terms of price, because our material cost is lower and we'll provide manufacturers a complete product consisting of a glass with a µ-retarder film."

ITRI is not the pioneer for using retardation technology, but it is the first R&D institute developing the µ-retarder for 80-inch displays, with the lowest cost and the most environmental protection features. Arisawa Manufacturing Co. Ltd Japan has developed a similar technology called Xpol. "However, they use chemicals where we use a laser," remarked Tsai. "Besides, Xpol can only be applied on displays smaller than 50 inches, but we have launched 42-inch products and are progressing toward 60- to 70- to 80-inch products in the future."

"We are in talks with display manufacturers for transferring µ-retarder technology. However, since they need to set up the whole production line for this new technology, it will take about one to two years before this kind of 3D display product will appear in the market," Tsai revealed.

Moreover, to enhance further the local technology in the field of stereogram display, ITRI has launched a development plan for video processing (including modeling and rendering), encoding/decoding and the interactive display technology covering video processing, encoding/decoding and display technologies.

Source: EE Times India