WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? The special spectacles required for viewing 3-D on today's top TV sets and at the movies, does add some weight to the nose - though in truth, not more than sunglasses. Plus, the "active shutter" variety of glasses used to produce the highest resolution 3-D requires a bit of maintenance - battery charging and replacement - and delivers best viewing results in a darkened room.
Of course, wearing 3-D specs also interferes with multitasking activities like responding to text messages on a mobile phone. And a small percentage of viewers say the glasses give them a headache.
FIXING THE HOLE: In recent years, major makers Philips, Sony and Toshiba have tried to create glasses-free, depth-defying 3-D TV by splitting the viewable image into a series of left- and right-eye perspectives filtered through a grooved lenticular lens on the front of the screen. This so-called "parallax barrier" technology works fine if you're a single spectator plopped just-so in front of the 3-D screen, as users of Nintendo's 3DS portable game player (and "glasses-free" 3-D-screen laptops) know well.
But even in Toshiba's new, state-of-the-art, auto-stereo 55-inch TV - built around a display with four times the resolution of today's mainstream HDTVs - there are still just a few spots to sit or stand in front of the set and enjoy a good depth effect. And with a price of $10,000, it's unlikely that Best Buy and Sears will want to bring Toshiba's statement piece (previewed at CES in Las Vegas last month) to the U.S.
THE STREAM SOLUTION: Stream TV's Ultra-D solution for auto-stereoscopic TV has solved some, but not all, 3-D's challenges, based on the prototypes I saw at CES.
Their biggest breakthrough is the elimination of those "sweetheart" viewing spots. You can do a semicircular stroll around the front of a Stream TV and enjoy a 3-D experience from virtually any position, which makes the technology practical for public-space signage.
While not wishing to spill too many beans, Rajan said the feat is accomplished with "proprietary technology," both "advanced algorithms and middleware" and "multiple layers of lenses" that move screen elements "forward and back" to achieve a sense of depth.
Most of the product development has been carried out at Stream TV's R&D division, SeeCube, based in Eindhoven. Yes, that's the same Netherlands town where Philips' now-decimated TV division is. "Some, but not all of our staff used to work for Philips," Rajan allowed, "but ours is not the same 3-D technology that company was marketing."
THE "PROMISING" PART: Even on the newest of their prototypes at CES, I sometimes saw a light, wavy pattern on the screen. A show demonstrator assured me that engineers are close to licking that lens manufacturing flaw.
Watching a variety of content, some 3-D in origin, some upconverted from 2-D, I also sensed the image was not as crisp as I enjoy on my 1080p 3-D Panasonic.
Stream starts with a 1080p panel, but all the special processing for 3-D reduces the image to better than 720p resolution, the maker says.
With the first 42- and 55-inch models StreamTV will offer jointly with "familiar and new brands," there's an outboard processing/switching box where the secret sauce is stirred and where a user can connect as many as four different video devices (via HDMI cable) for signal pass-through or internal conversion from 2-D to 3-D. All controllable, as is the level of depth effect, on the same wireless remote.
A drive for loading PC games also will be built-in, underscoring the depth of graphics processing at work here.
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? Financial wizard Mathu, 40, and his six-years-older attorney/COO brother Raja Rajan were raised in York and have "lots of family living around Philadelphia, which is why we moved here," Mathu said. Their first claim to business fame was as co-inventors and product launchers of ZeroWater, a proprietary consumer water filtration line available from retailers nationwide.
The brothers also introduced the eLocity line of Android tablets, the "first" to run on the Froyo 2.2 O.S. They plan to move forward on that competitive front with the first auto-stereoscopic screened tablets.