Coming Soon: 3-D Television Without the Glasses

I assumed that 3-D TV would remain an unfulfilled promise. Always "of the future" and never "of right now." Like the Dippin' Dots of living room technology. Apparently, I'm wrong.

Mitsubishi, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and JVC will all be showing off 3-D television products at the 2010 Consumer Electronic Show, which starts today. Sony grabbed the early headlines with three new sets that combine a 3D transmitter and special glasses to bring TV into the next dimension.

My interest in 3-D TV hits a speed bump when I hear about the glasses. It's one thing to wear funny-looking specs in a dark theater where nobody can see you. It's another to invite your buddies over for the football game and worry about having enough chips and dip and special goggles. But what if we could have 3-D TV without the glasses?

It's almost here:

Philips' WOWvx technology uses image-processing software, plus display hardware that includes sheets of tiny lenses atop LCD screens. The lenses project slightly different images to viewers' left and right eyes, which the brain translates into a perception of depth...

The multiple images allow viewers to walk around the viewing area--a cone about 20 degrees wide--without disturbing the 3-D illusion.

There are still bugs with the technology. For example, images that aren't coded for 3-D viewing still look messy, and it would be nice to have a set that's backward compatible so you could watch both 2-D and 3-D images in high definition.

One thing I wonder about this technology. If you can design a TV set that projects slightly different images, could you somehow have a single television set tuned to two different channels? In other words (and maybe this would require the glasses, again) could I watch a football game without sound on my 3-D TV while my friend to the right watches Jersey Shore on the same set, with volume? Open question to techies out there...