True 3D Retinal Scanning Display from UW HIT Lab

New 3-D display easier on the eyes

New York, NY, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- A new 3-D video display in development presents more realistic images and could eliminate the headaches and eyestrain caused by conventional displays, scientists told United Press International.

Scientists at the Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle have created a bench-mounted video display that can present images as if they originated from different points in space. This more realistic scheme, called True 3-D, is considered a major improvement over conventional 3-D.

The device is a modified retina-scanning light display. Such displays work by shining a light beam into the eye of the viewer. The beam paints images, one pixel at a time, directly onto the retina. In True 3-D, however, before the light beam goes onto the retina, it bounces off a mirror composed of a tiny membrane that is both reflective and elastic.

The mirror stays taut unless a voltage is applied, which pulls the membrane toward an electrode and curves the mirror. The more the mirror curves, the more the focus of the beam reflecting off it changes. By rapidly altering the mirror's shape, the image's components can appear to emerge from varying distances. A computer program determines how far away each object is in a scene -- and thus how much to alter the mirror's shape.

Along with realistic, immersive 3-D displays used in computer games and novel entertainment, the system's inventors foresee its potential for helping doctors in surgery.

The problem with traditional 3-D is although it depicts objects that appear to be varying distances away, in reality, all those objects emerge from the display at the same distance. This means whenever an eye viewing such a display changes its angle of line of sight, it has to keep from adjusting its lens to the correct focus.

This is why "current 3-D displays can't be a commercial success," said David Eccles, a display technology consultant in Valley Center, Calif., and a retired Sony vice president of engineering development. "People try, but they're more gadgets or novelties, not really useful because people can't watch them for any length of time," he told UPI. "This could give us a new display that can actually be used, both for entertainment or work."

By enhancing our visual experience, 3-D displays "should be of great assistance in making us more productive," said Microsoft Research architect Gary Starkweather, inventor of the laser printer. "Color, at one time, was thought to be superfluous, but no one says that now," he told UPI.

"They're trying to accomplish a 3-D display as what we've always thought it should be like, like a 'Star Trek' holodeck, the concept truly being immersed in an environment. You could be having a videoconference and see others as if they were there, as if you were the real thing," display technology consultant Aris Silzars in Sammamish, Wash., president of the Society for Information Display, told UPI.

Ideally, the mirror in the device should work with millions of pixels a second, to paint each pixel at a different level of focus. So far, the mirror adjusts for only thousands of pixels a second. At the Frontiers in Optics meeting Oct. 14 in Rochester, N.Y., the HITL team plans to reveal how the device can display objects that apparently come from two different distances -- for instance, a spider moving on a brick wall.

The team is now building the next generation of True 3-D with the aid of a three-year, National Science Foundation grant. The plan is to use multiple light beams and mirrors "that can easily create up to 15 distinct focus layers," Schowengerdt said. "Over the course of three years, we'll have a finished, full-stereoscopic, full-color, high-resolution, multi-focus display."

In the next five years they will also aim for a faster mirror, he added.

"Life right now is not as beautiful in front of a display as it is in real life, and we hope to bridge that gap," researcher Eric Seibel, a bioengineer and mechanical engineer at HITL, told UPI.

Intel originally funded research into the device. A spinoff company from the lab that is commercializing retinal displays, Microvision in Bothell, Wash., is a good fit for developing True 3-D, Schowengerdt said.
Big thanks to View for finding this great article. Unbelievable.

We have barely scratched the crust with regards to what is possible with retinal scanning displays. Evidence is mounting that Ray Kurzweil is correct when he says 'the bulk of our experiences will shift from real reality to virtual reality'.

If the curvature of the MEMS mirror in a scanned beam display can be altered in realtime with the application of voltage, and the light that hits the eye thus appears to come from varying distances, then we will indeed be able to create truly convincing 3D visual virtual reality environments.

This is an astonishingly brilliant technical achievement. True 3D scanned beam displays, indistinguishable from real life, here we come.