Over the past three years, researchers in the Camera Culture group at the MIT Media Lab have steadily refined a design for a glasses-free, multi-perspective, 3-D video screen, which they hope could provide a cheaper, more practical alternative to holographic video in the short term.

Now they have designed a projector that exploits the same technology. The projector can also improve the resolution and contrast of conventional video, which could make it an attractive transitional technology as content producers gradually learn to harness the potential of multiperspective 3-D.

The MIT researchers — research scientist Gordon Wetzstein, graduate student Matthew Hirsch, and Ramesh Raskar, the NEC Career Development Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and head of the Camera Culture group — built a prototype of their system using off-the-shelf components.

The heart of the projector is a pair of liquid-crystal modulators — which are like tiny liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) — positioned between the light source and the lens. Patterns of light and dark on the first modulator effectively turn it into a bank of slightly angled light emitters — that is, light passing through it reaches the second modulator only at particular angles. The combinations of the patterns displayed by the two modulators thus ensure that the viewer will see slightly different images from different angles.

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