Ultra-D: content key blocker to 4K takeup

Ultra-D's technology allows standard content to be viewed in high quality on top-end TVs and laptops

Nicole Kobie
7 Jan 2013

Stream TV has shown off a 2160p version of its Ultra-D glasses-free 3D, arguing its system solves a major problem for high-end displays: content.

The company has demonstrated glasses-free 3D at previous shows; at this year's CES, it's been upgraded to 2160p.

The Ultra-D 3D system adds depth to standard content by analysing the difference between parts of images - such as someone standing in the front of a frame and the background, similar to a hologram - filling in the pixels to offer 3D as well as boost quality to 4K levels.

The company's co-founder and CEO Mathu Raja argued it could help push 4K TVs into the mainstream, saying content was key to pushing people to upgrade.

He pointed to Apple's Retina display as an example, saying there wasn't enough content that made use of the high-resolution system. "Here at CES, you’re going to hear about a lot of companies coming out with 4K displays… But the problem with 8m pixels on the panel, it’s very difficult to find native 4K content," he said. "You practically can’t find any."

"People want native 4K, but their not going to get it for ten years," he said. "The consumer may have to wait, yet again, for content for these devices."

"With our technology, we've come up with a solution for this," he claimed. The Ultra-D format increases the resolution of content from any source - such as iTunes, Android tablets, or YouTube HD - from 1080p to 2160p without scaling, giving users a reason to upgrade to high-end TVs.

As the content is increased at the user end, it also saves on bandwidth. "We can now supply very high-res content using the existing infrastructure around the world," he said.

For content owners this is an opportunity to use their existing infrastructure to offer 4K quality," he said, adding it gives customers a reason to upgrade. "What happened with stereoscopic and HD – the consumer had to sit around for years and years and years with no content. We’re giving the consumer the opp to actually have content that goes with the devices."

"True 3D"

The system is based on proprietary hardware, software and firmware, with Stream TV giving little detail on how its algorithm works.

The company claims its system gives "true" 3D, rather than a "special effect".

"3D technology, if it’s done right, should work like your natural eye," said Raja. "It should not be a special effect or a trick on your brain."

For example, stereoscopic systems use two images, while parallax barriers block parts of the image, to force specific parts to your eyes. "They’re sort of tricking you into seeing 3D if it’s not there... true 3D should look like you’re looking out a window at a world that’s just beyond your reach."

The level of 3D - which Raja called the "pop" - is adjustable, meaning users can lessen the effect, or even flatten it entirely if they choose.

Stream TV doesn't make the consumer hardware, but provides the Ultra-D system to manufacturers, so Raja couldn't say when it might arrive in stores - although he said it's already with OEMs. He wouldn't be drawn on pricing other than to say it was "priced to go mass market".

Although he said the technology works on panels of any size, Raja suggested it will first be available on 50in and 60in TVs, as well as in a 31.5in all-in-one PC with a 3,840 x 2,160 display.

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