News from this week’s CEATEC show in Japan offers hope to those who love 3D, but not the special glasses required to view it. In a move described as the first step towards the future of 3D home cinema, the Regza 20GL1 and Regza 12GL1 were presented as examples of Toshiba’s autospectrosopic display technology, an approach that uses the company’s Cell Broadband Engine to provide “nine different perspective of each single 2D frame”, which are then superimposed by the viewer’s brain to create a three dimensional impression of the image.

The processing combines with a special screen surface that appears to be based on ancient (in technology terms, at least) lenticular or parallax barrier display. This is best likened to those 2D pictures (often presented on greeting cards, placemats and books) which are overlaid by a fine corrugated surface that makes a zipping sound when you run your fingers across it.

There are a number characteristics of this type of surface, including limited display size and viewing angles, both of which are borne out by Toshiba’s glasses-less 3D TV samples. Each of the LED LCD sets has an extremely narrow 40 degree viewing angle, so you need to sit pretty much straight on to the screen, and must be viewed from a seated position just one metre away. Outside these parameters, and the 3D effect is lost. (Current LCD and plasma televisions have horizontal viewing angles of 160 degrees or greater.)

In addition, while most consumer televisions these days are 40 inches in diagonal or greater and offer full high definition resolution, the Regza 20GL1 is 20 inches and offers 1280 x 720 pixels. The Regza 12GL1 is 12 inches with a resolution of 466 x 350 pixels. And if we were in any doubt as to how living room-friendly Toshiba’s glasses-free 3D are not, there’s the price: around $US2900 and $US1400 for the 20 inch (below) and 12 inch respectively.

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Toshiba also showed a 56 prototype of its glasses-less 3D TV at the CEATEC technology expo, but said it had no plans to bring it to market. The two smaller sets will be available for sale exclusively in Japan, and while they demonstrate that large-screen glasses-free 3D home cinema is still some years off, they might just be the way forward for the displays of small mobile devices and notebooks. Watch this space.