Sony’s Spatial Reality Display lets you gawk at 3D objects without glasses

It's the thing closest we've seen yet to a truly holographic screen.


3D TVs are effectively dead — consequently, so is the race to deliver glasses-free 3D sets at home. But that doesn’t mean the technology is entirely useless. Sony’s new Spatial Reality Display (or SR Display), for example, uses eye-tracking technology to render believable 3D objects, without the need to wear 3D glasses or put on a VR headset. It's something CG and VR artists could use to preview their work easily. And no, it's not meant for consumers -- not at its $5,000 price, anyway.

Sony first previewed the SR Display at CES this year, where it was called its "Eye-Sensing Light Field Display." It's made up of a 15.6-inch 4K LCD; a high-speed vision sensor that tracks eye movement, as well as your position as you walk around the display; and a micro-optical lens that's layed over the LCD, and divides the screen for your left and right eyes to create a stereoscopic image. The SR Display requires a beefy PC, with at least a modern Intel Core i7 CPU and NVIDIA's RTX 2070 Super GPU, to process its complex real-time rendering algorithm. That makes sense, since it's producing two separate 2K images constantly to match your eye movement.

For obvious reasons, we couldn't see the Spatial Reality Display in action ahead of this announcement. But Engadget UK Bureau Chief Mat Smith, who previewed it at CES, describes the screen as something like a "potted hologram demo," that was "small, fuzzy and unremarkable." While Sony is talking about it as a glasses-free 3D screen, promotional videos make it seem like a small stage for holographic objects. (It seems vaguely reminiscent of Sega's '90s-era holographic arcade cabinet for Time Traveler, which relied on mirrors to create a holographic optical illusion.)

I'll reserve full judgement until we see a final version of the Spatial Reality Display in action. It’s already being used by a few companies: Volkswagen says it's found "considerable usefulness and multiple applications" for the display during its ideation and design process. Sony Pictures Entertainment also used while filming Ghostbusters: Afterlife for pre-visualization for scenes and previewing 3D models. It could be particularly useful for VFX-heavy movies, since it allows filmmakers to get a glimpse of CG effects and 3D models from multiple angles.

Sony Spatial Reality Display

Given how difficult it is for creatives to collaborate today, the Spatial Reality Display could also be a useful way to view complex 3D models and scenes remotely. That ties into the company's "3R Technology," its new focus on "reality, real-time and remote" solutions during the pandemic era. That'll include things like volumetric capture technology, as well as its new intelligent image sensors with AI processing, based on a description of Sony's presentation during the CEATEC conference next week.

Sony's Spatial Reality Display will be available in November for $5,000 (or $6,650 Canadian) from the company's site and some retailers.