Sony RayModeler: 360° autostereoscopic 3D display prototype

First demonstrated in Japan last October at Ceatec 2009, the Sony 360° autostereoscopic 3D display prototype known as “RayModeler” is going to be showcased for the first time in USA at the upcoming SIGGRAPH event (Los Angeles, July 25-29).

The announcement comes with a video illustrating the device characteristics as well as its potential applications. Gaming is one of those, of course, and the PS3 is featured in the video as a compatible device (wait, don’t hold your breath yet).

Not that this means you are going to be seeing this odd-looking coffee machine-like apparatus sitting near your PS3 anytime soon. Aside from it being just a prototype rather than a commercial product, the autostereoscopic 3D capabilities of the device come at a huge cost in terms of size and resolution. The built-in cylindrical LED-powered display is in fact 27cm tall and 13cm wide, with a resolution of just 96×128 pixels. While this might be enough to accomodate an help-seeking Princess Leila, this is hardly the window you want to look your Killzone worlds through.

It’s an interesting technology nonetheless, one that might actually be setting a precedent in how to deal with the issues associated with current glasses-free autostereoscopic 3D vision technologies. Mainly, the need for the viewer to sit in a specific “hotspot” (or in multiple ones) in order to get his eyes fed with the dedicated frames that allow the 3D magic to happen.

By adopting a curved (convex) surface panel instead of a flat one (which is something Sony research on Flex OLED displays can lead to), pixels could perhaps be arranged in columns of different angles, reducing the fuzziness occurring when moving your head between hotspots. Which is exactly what the RayModeler already does, apparently. Add some head tracking to that and a crazy refresh rate and you are in for the Ultimate Glasses-Free 3D Interactive Gaming Experience™.

Or perhaps not. We will see in 10 years. Or maybe 100, when you’ll be reading this from a galaxy far far away.

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