3D Stereo Technology: Is it Ready for Prime Time?

3D Display Makers, Continued

The two cameras in the upper part of the Free2C display determine the exact position of the viewer's eyes and adjust the lenticular screen plate accordingly using special software.

A close-up shot of the upper part of the display. The vertical lines you see here are the special cylindrical lenses that refract the light of the individual rows of pixels into the viewer's eyes. The distance between these rows is only 0.54 mm!

The less expensive NEC-based version is available with an IR tracking system as an option.

The entry level A.C.T. Kern 3D display is based on a Samsung panel. It doesn't come with a tracking mechanism, so the stereo zone is limited to a certain area in front of the screen.

A.C.T. Kern's showroom gave us a good opportunity to directly compare the three models.

The autostereoscopic displays manufactured by A.C.T. Kern create a stunning spatial representation of objects. The top-of-the-line Free2C display made the best impression, as it allowed for a lot of freedom of movement in front of the display. The less complex displays offer the same good 3D effect but confine the user within the stereo zone.

Combined with an NVIDIA Quadro graphics card and A.C.T. Kern's software, the displays support a large number of 3D applications. Beyond that, even more software is available, developed by the company itself. For instance, there is a 3D object viewer included with the software. While the displays' portrait mode improves the color fidelity and accuracy of the 3D output, this mode simultaneously narrows down number of software titles that are supported. For example, NVIDIA's consumer 3D stereo driver does not support this mode of operation. Games, too, can not be displayed on these screens, with the exception of a few OpenGL titles.

For gamers, these displays are uninteresting for a much more mundane reason, namely cost. They are designed for and aimed at a professional market, and it shows in the price. No reason to lose heart, though, gamers - A.C.T. Kern is also working on a consumer solution for PC gamers.

Currently, the entry-level model, which comes without any tracking system and is built around a Samsung panel, costs around $4,200. The model using the NEC panel costs nearly twice as much, at $8,350. Adding the IR tracking system will bring the price up even further to nearly $12,000. Finally, the eye-tracking system equipped Free2C flagship model carries a price tag of $29,500. At the moment, A.C.T. Kern primarily serves the German and European market, but the company has also entered into negotiation with international partners. The partner company in the United States is Richardson Electronics Ltd .