As much as I am loathe to admit it, in-home 3D is clearly coming at us with a vengeance and it won’t be long before most people have 3D-capable displays in their living rooms. Similarly, there has been no let-up in the pace of new 3D releases in the theatres – presumably to ensure continued revenues for the theatre companies as well as providing a reason to upgrade your home gear.
So given that 3D doesn’t appear to be going away, I guess it’s a good thing that sunglasses company Oakley has decided to tackle some of the issues that have faced every 3D audience member since red-and-blue lenses made their debut back in the 1950’s:
- Theatre-based glasses have flat lenses which allow light to leak through the sides. Because they don’t wrap around your eyes, the 3D effect does not encompass your peripheral vision, forcing you to turn your head to get the maximum 3D experience
- Home-based active-shutter glasses are heavy and require recharging for their internal batteries
- Both types of glasses are uncomfortable for extended use and, let’s face it, not very stylish.
To solve this, Oakley is going to launch a new line of optically-correct 3D glasses designed for people who want the best viewing and fashion experience both in theatres and at home.
What they haven’t solved yet – but apparently are working hard on – is the fact that theatre and home 3D systems are, so far, incompatible when it comes to 3D glasses. Movie theatres use a projection system known as “passive polarization“. This technique projects two different images on the movie screen at once, each image filtered through a polarized lens that modifies the “bias” of the light that is reflected back to your eyes. The inexpensive, disposable 3D glasses simply filter this light a second time so that your right and left eyes are receiving the appropriate version of the image.
Home systems, however, use a technique known as “active shutter” whereby the TV’s screen projects the two images in a rapidly alternating stream – flickering at very high frequencies. This method requires glasses that can cause the lens for each eye to flicker at the corresponding frequency, once again making sure that each eye gets the correct image to ensure the 3D effect.
Since one of Oakley’s goals is to eliminate the need to recharge your glasses, the obvious technique to embrace is the passive polarization system. But as of the writing of this post, there are hardly any home systems that support polarization-based 3D.
Oakley’s press release simply states that
Oakley is pursuing partnerships with manufacturers of home 3D systems that utilize passive polarization. This will allow consumers to use the same eyewear for home and cinema 3D entertainment.
As for styles and pricing, for now the company is only saying that both will be competitive with other products on the market and their own distinctly-styled product line-up.
I think it’s fair to say that this means we’ll be looking at fancy 3D specs priced in the $150-$350 USD range.
If that sounds like a good deal to you, Oakley is promising to release the first models this year “prior to the 2010 holiday season. It will initially be sold through premium optical distribution channels in the U.S., followed by a global launch in 2011.”
Update, November 8, 2010: Oakley has released their first set of 3D Glasses. They may not look any different from other Oakley specs – and that’s really the point – but you are looking at the future of 3D eyewear: The Oakley 3D GASCAN. Coming in at the bottom of the expected price range, you can order these from Oakley.com or drop by your nearest Sunglass Hut. Bring along $120 USD if you want to watch your next 3D movie in style.