NTT uses scattered monitors to trick your brain into seeing 3D images

Because not everyone's walking around wearing augmented reality goggles yet

Japan's IT services and telecoms giant NTT Corporation says it has devised a way of making 3D images visible in augmented reality applications without requiring special equipment or even direct observation.

NTT's Communication Science Laboratories was interested in this topic as augmented reality and 3D display today requires precise placement of displays. Preparing images shown on tiled displays is complex, because they appear disjointed if a display array uses screens with bezels.

But NTT's boffins were aware that that human brain likes to fill in the blanks when offered partial information – a phenomenon known as "transparency perception." A famous example of transparency perception at work is the Kanizsa Triangle – depicted below in which our gray matter decides it's seeing a triangle.

Kanizsa's triangle

Kanizsa's triangle – Click to enlarge

The researchers wondered if transparency perception could be brought to bear in public spaces, so that displaying images could be achieved without requiring audiences to stare directly at screens or don augmented reality headsets.

They succeeded by using a jumbled array of displays and showing portions of images on each, as depicted below. It's kinda like the array of displays Robert Kooima described in his 2008 paper "Generalized Perspective Projection," albeit with a clutter of monitors rather than an organized grid arrangement.

NTT's distributed displays

NTT's distributed displays. Up top, an illustration of the tech with a rabbit example. Down below, the system in practice with a dolphin. How the rabbit turned into a dolphin, you are not expected to understand this ... Click to enlarge

A random arrangement of monitors won't work. The array is carefully calibrated to display a two-dimensional code on each monitor, then photographed in order to understand "the positional relationship between monitors."

It's apparently possible to do this with a single camera, or use a stereo camera to better estimate depth.

The tech isn't ready for prime time – NTT's researchers know they need a better understanding of "how the size of the gap and the arrangement of the presented content affect the ease of completing missing parts in the brain."

They'll keep exploring that issue, and others, though. Their aim is to create "a more flexible technology that allows 3D images to be perceived in a wider range of conditions" and "a ubiquitous large-scale 3D display that can present a gigantic 3D image by combining various displays, including not only monitors, but also projectors and other display types." ®

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