MasterImage 3D has been developing glasses-free 3D smartphone and tablet displays for years — we saw some samples of their work at CES this year. There's still no word on when we might actually see products using the tech here in the US, but earlier this week we got some insight into what the stereoscopic screens might end up costing us. MasterImage's "cell-matrix parallax barrier" will add an estimated $10 to $12 to the cost of a smartphone, $20 to a 7-inch tablet, and $25 to $32 to a 10-inch tablet.
The latest iteration of the MasterImage's glasses-free tech was being demoed on a Qualcomm reference tablet, and it didn't fail to impress. MasterImage's patented technology works rather well, serving up bright and vivid 3D video and images, without the requisite headaches or nausea. Viewing angles are generous; glasses-free 3D technology is often limited by the room your head has to roam, and MasterImage's tech gave us a few inches of wiggle room before fading back into 2D. It's also brighter and clearer than the competing technology we've seen to date.
More importantly, we were told that power drain would be negligible. MasterImage's tech sandwiches a twisted-nematic (TN) LCD between a mobile device's touchscreen and display. The panel generates that 3D effect by alternatively activating and disabling slits which generate distinct images for your left and right eyes — it's called a parallax barrier, and it's the same tech that powers the Nintendo 3DS. MasterImage divides these slits into cells, improving light penetration, and serving up a brighter image without requiring as much power. We were told that the additional power consumption for the technology hovers around one milliamp. Anyone who's owned the Nintendo 3DS is familiar with how that portable console's 3D effects skewer the battery life; low power consumption should make adoption for MasterImage's technology a little more feasible.
At CES, we were told the the new 3D displays would be showing up in the second half of the year. Fast forward four months, and we've been told to expect to see smartphones sporting MasterImage's 3D glasses-free technology around the end of the year, with tablets following early in 2013 — but these releases are limited to Asia. The tech is impressive, but it'll be difficult to gauge the actual impact on the battery (or price-tag) without getting our hands on an actual product; and with no timeline for gadgets in the US, it's a bit difficult to get excited.