Sony CES 3D Tech already Outdated, Something Better Coming

During CES, Ars was shown a "great" 3D display at Sony's massive booth. While the Sony representative wouldn't tell us how the effect was achieved, a well-placed source just passed us some information about what technology the screens used to show those PS3 games in three dimensions, and then explained why it will never see the light of day. What will we see in the future? Standardized, full-resolution 3D displays.

"The LCDs Sony is using a technique called 'Micropolarization' (often abbreviated as Xpol)," Ars was told. "Put simply, the display is layered with a polarizing filter that actually polarizes every other horizontal line of the display to 'spin' the light in a different direction. The glasses you're wearing (provided by RealD) only accept light spinning in one direction to the eye it is covering. That's how each eye gets a different angle and, ultimately, how your brain interprets 3D."

This is the same technology used in movie theaters, which is why the RealD glasses work. "The difference is, at the cinema, a full frame image is painting on the screen and an active LCD polarizer spins the light for one whole frame in the same direction so that you get Left-Right-Left-Right sequential," the source claimed.

"Of course the limitation here is obvious, the Sony LCD's only show half resolution to each eye. It looks perceptually very close to HD after your brain slaps it together, but the lower resolution is apparent if you examine the screen more closely." That's something no one on the show floor had a chance to do, as writers and industry professionals jockeyed for position.

The truth is, according to our source, Sony has no intentions of selling the technology it showed at its booth. That's why no PR people wished to talk about it; there will never be a product that Sony shows with that form of 3D.

After communicating a few times with our source, whose job makes it very important that he or she stay up to date on where 3D is going, it sounds as if there will be a big announcement in the world of 3D displays sooner rather than later. 3D in the consumer space will never get off the ground unless there is a standardized format for getting the data to the screen, and a set of standards for the screen to show them. Sony will move into 3D in a big way; that doesn't seem up for debate.

What we can only hope from these comments is that all the major electronics providers, as well as big content, will come together and hash out a way to make sure 3D technology matures. A standard for content and displays will go a long way to turning 3D into something we gawk at during CES to something that is in the majority of home theaters.

Tom Hanks wearing prototype 3D glasses during Sony CEO Howard Stringer's keynote at CES

By Ben Kuchera, Ars Technica