Consumer electronics manufaturer Samsung has a separate division that goes out and hunts for new ventures to invest in so the company can stay ahead of the curve on 3-D. Its most recent find is MasterImage 3D, a company that has been involved in 3-D technology for both large and small screens since 2004.
Among the innovations that Younghoon Lee, chairman and CEO of MasterImage 3D, has championed is auto-stereoscopic LCD screens for small game consoles and portable media players. For the past eight years, Lee has been working to develop his own manufacturing process that he says improves upon other techniques for producing auto-stereoscopic LCD screens. His technique ensures just the right amount of left-eye/right-eye alignment between the 3-D panel and the TFT LCD display to enable a single viewer to experience the desired effect without using special 3-D glasses.
Samsung Ventures likes the technology so much that it invested $15 million, stating that it sees promise in MasterImage 3D’s ability to advance its digital 3-D solutions for cinema and glasses-free 3-D displays for smart phones, tablets and larger displays. Both companies said they are also interested in pursuing 3-D content creation tools for mobile devices as well as 3-D digital cinema solutions.
MasterImage 3D invented, patented and mass-produced the cell-matrix parallax barrier, the most common technology for auto-stereoscopic mobile display, which, it says, offers a higher-quality 3-D experience than striped and lenticular approaches. Its work enabled one of the world’s first glasses-free 3-D mobile phones, and the company is in development to deliver additional smart phones and tablets equipped with its 3-D displays this year. On the large screen, MasterImage 3D’s digital cinema systems are installed in nearly 60 countries, following what it claims was a year of more than 300 percent growth.
Lee said Samsung's investment “supports our strong belief that we've just begun to realize the impact 3-D will have on consumers. We will continue to build toward our vision of 3-D on every screen.”
Based in Los Angeles, MasterImage has sold more than 400,000 Hitachi WOOO cell phones and portable media players with MasterImage 3D display screen technology into the Japanese market since the device shipped via a limited production run in 2009. And, Lee’s company is able to offer phone manufacturers an attractive price because the production costs of MasterImage 3D panels are cheaper.
Ilseok Yoon, managing director of Samsung Ventures America, said the company is attracted to MasterImage 3D’s pioneering spirit.
“MasterImage 3D has demonstrated both a technical and business vision in driving adoption of 3-D, and we look forward to contributing to the progress MasterImage 3D has made in all facets of consumer entertainment and communication.”
The hope is that MasterImage 3D’s auto-stereoscopic manufacturing processes will someday make it practical to produce an affordable, glasses-free TV display for the home that’s larger than 25in. Thus far, no company has been successful due to the maturity of the technology and the physics of 3-D viewing from multiple angles.