Flat lens breakthrough extends glasses-free 3D display viewing range

Researchers from Soochow University have developed a prototype, glasses-free 3D light field display system with an extended viewing distance thanks to a new flat lens design.

The development marks an important step towards developing realistic-looking 3D displays that could be used for televisions, portable electronics and table-top devices. 

The prototype uses light field displays, which create realistic images by projecting different views to enable a 3D scene that looks the same when viewed from different angles. The focal length of the lenses used to create these projected views is a factor that until now has limited viewing distance. 

The researchers designed a new, diffractive flat lens by patterning nanostructures onto a flat surface to focus light, intertwining several lenses to create a pixelated view modular, the optical component that creates the various perspectives for a light field display scene. 

The researchers claim that flat lenses provide improved light manipulating capabilities compared to traditional glass lenses that can be used to solve problems related to limited viewing distances in 3D displays, visual fatigue, crosstalk and limited motion parallax. 

The researchers reported that the prototype display enabled high colour fidelity over viewing distances from 24cm to 90cm. 

Wen Qiao, research team leader, Soochow University, explains: “Most light field 3D displays have a limited viewing range, which causes the 3D virtual image to degrade as the observer moves farther away from the device. The nanostructured flat lens we designed is just 100 microns thick and has a very large depth of focus, which enables a high-quality virtual 3D scene to be seen from farther away.”

“We developed this new technology in hopes of creating displays that could allow people to feel as if they were actually together during a video conference. With the continued development of nanotechnology, we envision that glasses-free 3D displays will become a normal part of everyday life and will change the way people interact with computers.”

Photo credit: Wen Qiao, Soochow University 

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