The future of displays has a problem: Our eyes

By Nathaniel Mott , written on January 9, 2013

From The News Desk

So many of us see the world through panes of glass. That's not a metaphor for the rise of smartphones and tablets – it's a description of the less than perfect eyesight of some 64 percent of Americans who want to see the world as more than blobs of green and grey. Which means that for the majority of Americans, the future of television is going to be a problem.

One of the first things I noticed at CES was a huge display covering one of the main entrances to an exhibition hall. The LG-built display loops a video of space, inviting attendees to witness the awesomeness of the universe and LG, so long as they grab a pair of 3D-capable glasses on their way in.

Sony passes similar glasses around for its own displays, including a 4K (a better-than-HD resolution that's dominating CES) television that also supports 3-D viewing. The company's SimulView tech, which allows gamers to avoid the horrors of having to divide their beautiful screen when they feel like playing with friends, does so by sending one image to each set of glasses, requiring users to wear the glasses if they want to see what's happening on-screen without weird "ghosting" effects.

That joke yesterday about someone trying to manufacture a case for smartphone cases? The same principle can be applied here: Eventually, someone is going to release a pair of glasses whose sole purpose is to help find another pair of glasses.

This means that those people with less than 20/20 vision who want to watch a movie or television show in 3-D, or want to take advantage of Sony's new SimulView tech while gaming, have to don two pairs of glasses. If you've ever been to a 3-D movie in theaters or have even purchased one of the many 3-D equipped television sets already on the market, and you wear glasses, you know how uncomfortable this is. Our poor noses and ears can only comfortably support so many pairs of glasses, and it turns out that the limit is "one."

Some people might solve this problem by wearing contact lenses, and the report cited earlier says that some 11 percent of corrective lens wearers opt for contact lenses. This may be fine for some, but I found that wearing contact lenses while looking at a screen, whether it was on a computer, phone, or television, caused some headaches, an issue that the optometrist confirmed as being fairly common. Contact lenses might work for some, then, but they aren't a full solution.

Unfortunately there isn't much manufacturers can do to combat this. Apple called the iPhone display the "Retina Display" for a reason: Displays aren't really limited by pixels anymore, they're limited by what the human eye can see. Other, "cooler" display technology, like 3-D and SimulView, have to work around our biological limitations, and it turns out that glasses are the best way for them to do so.

The only problem is that we already used that solution, and unless we suddenly start embracing larger noses and wider ears, the ability to see a fight scene play out in 3-D is going to quickly run up against the ability to see, period.

[Image Credit: Profound Whatever on Flickr]