To date, viewing 3D movies has been something of a complicated affair — the ability to view movies in a brand new perspective enhances the experience for those lucky enough to see it, but 3D-viewing relies heavily on the use of special glasses that often came with a scratch or some type of mark, thus somewhat ruining the experience. Fortunately, MIT has developed a remedy to the situation: a glasses-less 3D display that allows everyone to view the movie in the same 3D glory, regardless of where they are in the room.
For what it's worth, glasses-less 3D tech is by no means new. It's present in phones and the 3DS, but both of them have a specific advantage in regard to how they're designed: the display is made to be used by a single person who is expected to be viewing the display head-on and from a specifc angle. In contrast, theaters have multiple people viewing the screen from different angles.
So, what is the solution to this? Working with Israel's Weiszmann Institute of Science, MIT Computers Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (Csail) created a screen called the "Cinema 3D" that uses an arrangement of lenses and mirrors to create a series of parallax barriers that covers every viewing angle in the theater based on seat locations. What's more, unlike previous attempts at large-scale glasses-free 3D, the screen preserves resolution, providing the same crisp image to every member of the audience.
Interestingly enough, researchers came upon this solution due to a simple realization: yes, there are multiple people viewing the same screen, but they are also viewing it from static — albeit different — angles. Simply put, they just needed to make a screen that accounts for the various positions in which the audience will sit, since the seats are all in fixed locations and people usually don't change their viewing too much during the screening of a movie — something that can't necessarily be said about movie viewers at home.
Though this prototype will no doubt change the 3D movie business in the future, the problem for the time being is that this screen is just that — a prototype. As things stand, this prototype only exists as a screen that is slightly larger than a piece of paper that uses 50 sets of mirrors and lenses to achieve its 3D effect. In other words, the practicality of the design has been proven, but there is still a bit of time before it becomes a commercially-viable product.
Furthermore, while on the subject of becoming a commercially-viable product, the final design will need to be scaled up and become more intricate in order to make it work at a movie theater, potentially making it rather expensive.
In the end, however, it's still imaginable that an optimized version of this screen will find its way into theaters one day, pushing 3D content to the next level, as well as removing one of its more annoying features.