Last month the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Microsoft that reveals their work on variable-depth 3D Display Technology for an HDTV that will be able to play Future 3D Xbox video games without the need of having the consumer or gamer to use any special glasses. The advanced 3D technology will allow a person to move within a room and still be able to view the right 3D angle of a movie or game without distortion. Microsoft may deliver this technology in two ways. They may integrate special variable-depth technology into their Kinect gaming peripheral or they could build it directly into a future Surface or PixelSense based Devices. With Microsoft reportedly about to invest $2 Billion US into Dell, one has to wonder if Microsoft will use Dell to produce upcoming PixelSense televisions and/or tabletop computers and other large displays that Perceptive Pixel was manufacturing.
Microsoft's Patent Background
Microsoft's patent background states that content providers are increasingly offering content in three-dimensional (3D) format to enhance a viewing experience. This 3D content is often shown on specialized 3D displays that split the 3D content into different images targeted to each eye of a viewer.
Different imagery could be displayed to each eye of a viewer in a variety of ways including the use of passive eyewear, active eyewear, dual head-mounted displays, or dividing the image directionally without the use of eyewear (auto-stereoscopy).
Although auto-stereoscopy doesn't require the use of specialized glasses or multiple displays, a distance at which the divided images are effective to produce 3D imagery is generally limited. As such, stereoscopic displays are unable to display 3D imagery to a viewer that moves out of a focal plane of the display or to multiple viewers at varying distances from the display.
Microsoft's Variable-Depth 3D Display Technology
Microsoft's invention generally relates to various apparatuses and techniques for implementing a variable-depth stereoscopic display. These apparatuses and techniques may enable a stereoscopic display to provide three-dimensional (3D) content to a viewer over different distances from the stereoscopic display or to multiple viewers at varying distances from the stereoscopic display.
A first distance at which a viewer is disposed relative to a stereoscopic display could be received. Once received, a second distance by which to change a front focal distance of a lens structure of the stereoscopic display is determined based on the first distance. The front focal distance of the lens structure is then caused to change by the second distance effective to display a stereoscopic image at the first distance. By so doing, a front focal distance of the stereoscopic display could be varied to provide 3D content to a viewer at different distances from the stereoscopic display.
Detailed View of Microsoft's 3D Stereoscopic Variable-Depth Display
Microsoft's patent FIG. 3 illustrates another detailed example of a 3D variable-depth stereoscopic display which includes a lens structure, light injection system, liquid crystal lens (LQ lens) and spatial light modulator.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 15 shown below is a flow diagram depicting an example method for selecting a light source to change a focal plane of a stereoscopic display. Their patent FIG. 16 illustrates an example viewing environment in which the viewer has moved away from television device. In the context of this example, the controller noted in patent figure 3 detects movement of the viewer as she moves away from her television device by analyzing viewer positional data received from the sensor built into a Kinect like device on top of the television (or built into the TV).
Microsoft's key sensor 126 noted above could collect viewer position data by way of various sensing technologies, either working alone or in conjunction with one another. Sensing technologies may include, by way of example and not limitation, optical, radio-frequency, acoustic (active or passive), micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), ultrasonic, infrared, pressure sensitive, and the like. In some embodiments, the sensor may receive additional data or work in conjunction with a remote control device or gaming controller associated with one or more viewers to generate the viewer positional data.
Microsoft's invention isn't restricted to a television and therefore could apply to future Microsoft surface tablets, Windows smartphones, desktop displays, Ultrabooks and other forms of devices with a display. In general, any of the devices noted in the invention, including a multitouch HDTV, could provide three-dimensional (3D) content to viewers without the use of special 3D eyewear.
Microsoft's patent application was originally filed in Q3 2011 under serial number 192321 and published by the USPTO in January 2013.
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