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Automotive suppliers and automakers are looking into new forms of 3D displays that offer more depth and a more natural viewing experience. The 3D displays can be used for warnings, augmented reality and even video entertainment. 

Bosch recently announced that it will be offering passive 3D technology to generate three-dimensional realistic effects. The 3D display combines hardware and software. A special cover/foil coating is attached to the display glass. This cover splits light signals from the display into information for two eyes to let the 3D effect emerge in the user’s brain. Controlling the 3D display functions is done through a central processing unit.

“Messages presented in 3D capture your attention immediately,” says Tim Wieland, spokesperson for Bosch. “The display allows new ways to present information to drivers like a traffic jam warning or a driver assistance notification such as blind-spot detection.”

“We are uncluttering the cockpit. The more complex the technology in modern vehicles, the simpler and more intuitive control systems need to be,” says Dr Steffen Berns, President of Bosch Car Multimedia.

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In a study conducted by Nora Broy at BMW Group Research and Technology, a 3D autostereoscopic display with lenticular lenses was mounted as an instrument cluster in a BMW 5 series sedan. To enhance the 3D effect, the display employed an “eye-tracking mechanism that adjusted the sweet spot.” In a real-world driving study, fifteen experts in automotive User Interface (UI) design tested the technology.

They found that the 3D increases the perceived quality of the UI and enhances the presentation of spatial information compared to 2D. However, the authors warned that spatial clutter should be avoided.

3D Holograms

The eyes see a 3D hologram as people see it in nature through SeeReal technology, a company with a minority stake investment from Volkswagen. The companies have been working together since 2018. Volkswagen plans to use SeeReal 3D technology for augmented reality applications.

“We only see the light that comes directly into our eyes the rest of visual information is lost, SeeReal uses eye-tracking to generate complete holographic images to take advantage of the light to the user’s eyes only,” says CEO of SeeReal Technologies S.A., Bo Krøll.

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The holographic display modulates the pixel and the timing of the light. Holographic 3D is different than current 3D used in movies or TVs generate images that to remain focused on the screen view. That is not what happens in nature, in nature our gaze wanders from one image to the next with the focus of our eyes changes. SeeReal 3D Holograms emulate nature creating 3D objects in high resolution, anywhere from the tip of a nose to the horizon,

The images are uncannily real and a different user experience says Krøll. Hologram computation is fairly complex, however, SeeReal reduced it from a supercomputer to run on a small chip.

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Continental Leia Lightfied DLB 3D

Another form of 3D display is available from Continental. The 3D Lightfield application uses Leia’s DLB (Diffractive Lightfield Backlighting) which diffracts light through a screen enhanced with nanostructures creating realistic light effects. It can be seen even when sunlight is shining into the display.

Consumers are accustomed to brilliant displays on their mobile phones, says David Fattal, CEO of Leia Inc. The Lightfield Displays in vehicles will offer an image quality that matches their expectations in 2D while also providing comfortable 3D Lightfield imagery to all passengers without eye-tracking.

The content platform LeiaLoft will enable premium and safety apps such as warnings, parking assistance, navigation or digital avatar.

“We could not be happier of the partnership with Continental”, says Fattal, “They provide the support we need to work on all aspects of the vehicle ecosystem such as ADAS. Together we are building an automotive SDK that will let OEMs and third-party developers access the 3D environment of the car in real-time and facilitate the creation of engaging apps for all our customers”

“We at Continental believe that our Natural 3D Display, which we developed together with Leia, will enhance the driver experience and interaction without distraction,” says Kai Hohmann, product manager, Display Solutions at Continental. “The wide display will open up opportunities for video entertainment and use of the vehicle cameras for video calling and augmented reality.”

Other video uses for the near future the technology for the Lightfield ecosystem will also include social sharing, gaming and e-commerce adds Fattal.

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3D technology holds great promise as long as it is done skillfully.

“Automakers will need to focus more on differentiating with features like 3D displays and holographic images,” says Chris Schreiner, director of UX syndicated research, Strategy Analytics. He notes that while 3D makes the automaker appear on the cutting edge, and there are specific use cases for which the technology can be beneficial to the driver, it will take some time to determine how consumers will react to the technology and if it will improve the driving experience.

Schreiner warns that what information is presented in 3D, where, and how has to be carefully considered so it does not increase distraction.

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