Designing glasses-free 3D displays using TI DLP® technology

This post was co-authored by Alex Lyubarsky and Paul Rancuret.

The next evolution of projected image displays is a display that provides a realistic viewing experience, as often depicted in futuristic Hollywood movies. The display industry has succeeded in developing 3D displays that combine stereoscopic eyewear and virtual reality (VR) content to approximate this experience. Regrettably, inconvenience of using eyewear and the limitations of relying on special glasses for 3D visualization resulted in low adoption of 3D-capable eyewear for gaming and in-home entertainment after its introduction in 2010.

DLP® technology can enable autostereoscopic multiview solutions with excellent image quality. Constraining the distance between the viewer and the virtual object within the stereoscopic comfort zone can help manage VAC on DLP technology multiview displays.

Figure 1: Autostereoscopic multiview solution

3D display systems enable users to experience content with a greater sense of three-dimensional shape by stimulating binocular cues within the HVS.

The goal of glasses-free 3D systems is to eliminate the need for stereoscopic eyewear, while at the same time enhancing the visual experience to eliminate eye strain.

Applications that could benefit from glasses-free 3D viewing include medical, engineering and gaming systems. In the medical field, a doctor performing endoscopic surgery can have real-time depth perception of an internal organ without the intrusion of special eyewear. Engineers can accurately visualize a machine they are designing in three dimensions before building it. A PC gamer can get an edge on competitors by instantly visualizing content outside the monitor’s viewing periphery.

A glasses-free 3D display application can deliver three benefits:

  • The “look-around” effect. Also known as motion parallax, the look-around effect is the ability to change the viewing perspective of an object or scene as the user’s head changes position relative to the object. Figure 2 illustrates how different people could view a simple object just by moving their head horizontally or vertically. In a monitor application, achieving a horizontal look-around effect (or horizontal parallax) is most critical as the user moves their head left and right while sitting; the vertical look-around effect would not necessarily need to be changed.

Figure 2. The look-around effect provided by glasses-free 3D displays.

  • Extended viewing times. In many applications, users need to use the display application for long periods; surgeries can take hours to perform and professional gamers often play for hours when practicing or competing in tournaments.
  • Leverage the stereoscopic infrastructure. The ability to create a glasses-free 3D experience in the near term will be subject to infrastructure availability. Some glasses-free 3D display systems can reuse 3D stereoscopic source content, including VR material, which could enable quick adoption of glasses-free 3D displays.

Table 1 lists a few examples of applications.





  • Endoscopic surgery.
  • CAT scan analysis.
  • Product development.
  • Geographic visualization.
  • Architectural modeling.
  • Advertising.
  • Maps.
  • First-person shooter.
  • Real-time strategy.
  • Arcades.
  • Casinos.

 Table 1. Applications of glasses-free 3D displays.

A display product designer has additional design challenges when creating a glasses-free 3D experience, including the look-around effect and the physiological cues that users require, including image quality, brightness, contrast and more. DLP technology can help solve these challenges by harnessing its speed, low power and high image quality.

DLP technology can help solve these challenges by harnessing its speed, low power and high image quality. DLP Pico™ technology enables small solutions for next-generation display and light control. With mirror arrays ranging from 0.2 to 0.47 inches, DLP products are a good fit for small applications and have been designed into hundreds of consumer electronics. From one-ninth high-definition to 4K ultra-high-definition resolutions, DLP display products bring colorful and crisp images to virtually any surface.

Table 3 lists the benefits of DLP Pico technology-based products for glasses-free 3D displays.


DLP display technology benefit

Pixel density

Attaining an effective resolution (1080p) requires that each unique view have a resolution resulting in an extremely high pixel density (8 views × 1920 × 1080 = 16.5 million total pixels). Leveraging the fast switching speed of the DMD, the display on- screen can achieve 4 times the active array resolution by time-multiplexing pixel placement.

Imaging switching speed

Harnessing the speed of the DMD, DLP display chipsets can support extremely high frame rates that enable the time-multiplexing of multiple views within a frame. As an example, frame rates of 240 Hz at 1080p are possible today.

Image quality

DLP display technology, based on Academy Award-winning DLP Cinema technology*, is capable of delivering vivid pictures and video to any display system.


Using a reflective optical architecture, DLP display technology can deliver full-on/full-off and American National Standards Institute contrast ratios.

Power efficiency

With no polarization needed, DLP display technology can achieve among the best power efficiency in display LED projection systems.

*2014 Scientific and Technical Academy Award of Merit (Oscar statuette) presented to TI Fellow Larry J. Hornbeck for the invention of DMD technology as used in DLP Cinema® projection.

Table 3. DLP Pico display benefits for glasses-free 3D applications

There is a large opportunity ahead with glasses-free 3D displays. Glasses free 3D can benefit various applications including medical, professional, signage and gaming markets. DLP products and companies using DLP technology have demonstrated unique implementations that address most of these challenges and deliver a unique user experience.