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True 3D Displays

The goal of this research is to develop a visual display that mimics natural 3D viewing, unlike most all stereoscopic displays available today.

An illustration of software defocus cues for
an accommodative response.  Move your pointer between foreground and
background to see the difference in focus.
An illustration of software defocus cues for an
accommodative response. Move your pointer
between foreground and background to see
the difference in focus.
The eye captures two-dimensional (2-D) images on the retina and the human mind perceives distance or depth by using the many available depth cues. Each eye can focus at various fixation distances by changing the shape of the crystalline lens (accommodation) to minimize blur and by changing the relative eye position (vergence) to eliminate double vision.

Accommodation and vergence are the most important physiologically driven processes of the eyes involved in viewing real three-dimensional (3-D) objects and they are linked with one another at a muscular reflex level. An involuntary movement in one cue is triggered when the other process is moved, such as converging the eyes to see an object up close (vergence cue) triggers the eyes to focus closer than previously (accommodation cue).

Monocular true 3D
display apparatus
Monocular true 3D display apparatus
Current electronic 3-D displays do not match the accommodative and vergence requirements of our human visual system for viewing objects in depth and violate this linkage. Standard stereographic displays provide two disparate perspective views that must be actively fused via vergence by the viewer to display objects that appear at distances other than that of the fixed-plane image display. Users must uncouple the natural response of accommodating in concert with these vergence shifts to the changes in apparent distance and instead maintain a fixed focus on the display surface. The conflict that occurs between the accommodation depth cue and the stereoscopic depth cue is documented as one of the leading causes for discomfort when viewing 3-D displays.
10mm diameter MEMS deformable mirror
10mm diameter MEMS deformable mirror
The elimination of this cue conflict in prototype virtual retinal displays is hypothesized to be able to alleviate fatigue when viewing 3-D displays. The accommodative cue will be generated in hardware using wavefront shaping deformable membrane mirrors. In addition, software cues, such as blurring, relative size, occlusion, etc., will be tested for triggering appropriate accommodative responses in electronic 3-D displays. Our prototype electronic display that allow for both accommodation and vergence we call "true 3D" displays since it allows the viewer to see in 3-D more naturally that current stereographic displays. We anticipate that these more natural true 3D displays will reduce viewer fatigue and make a more compelling visual experience.

Sponsoring Agencies

Intel Corporation
National Science Foundation Bioengineering MRI Program, NSF/BES grant number 0421579


Brian Schowengerdt <brian at>, Eric Seibel <eseibel at>