DualView’s origins lay in 3D – specifically glasses-free 3D.

In the last decade we have seen the rapid technological advancements of “infotainment systems” on car dashboards, finally catching up with the future gazers’ vision for our automotive lives. One such innovation was born out of an unlikely source, 3D.

Welcome to the world of DualView, a technology that has now established itself on the dashboard of high-end Jaguars, Mercedes’, and Range Rovers. DualView uses 3D tech to display two 2D images simultaneously, in this case, allowing the passenger to watch TV, while the driver can continue plotting his route through the satellite navigation system.

The technology’s origins lay in 3D – specifically glasses-free 3D, most recently seen in Nintendo’s 3DS and 3DS XL handheld games console. Much like the 3DS, DualView combines a normal LCD with parallax barrier technology, displaying two pictures simultaneously by separating the direction of light from each pixel into two directions.

3D innovation

But unlike glasses-free 3D, which tricks the eyes into seeing a single three-dimensional image by layering two 2D images, DualView uses the tech to display two 2D images simultaneously. Humans Invent sat down with Jonathan Mather, Principal Researcher  in the Optical Imaging and Display Systems Group at Sharp Laboratories of Europe, who helped develop the technology right from the beginning.

It’s a convenient technology for satellite navigation which makes me a much better driver

Mather explains, “Sharp started the development of DualView displays in late 2001. A car manufacturer asked Sharp if they could provide such a display but at the time no such display existed and so we were called in to see if we could help (based on our experience of 3D displays which perform a similar function – different images to different eyes, rather than different images to different people).”

“The aim of the project was always to make a DualView display for cars, but initially we had no firm idea as to what the best method of achieving the display was or if it was even possible. So initially the aim of the project was to make a basic DualView display prototype by any means necessary and then refine it as we learnt about what the essential specifications needed to be, and the pros and cons of the various potential designs.”

Engineering a hidden screen

Interestingly, Sharp Laboratories of Europe has become specialists in creating displays that change their appearance when viewed from different angles.  At the same time that DualView displays were unveiled, Sharp also announced an interesting new type of display for smartphones and tablet screens.  The idea behind it was to enable a privacy function for confidential or sensitive subject matter. Using it on public transport, since you can only see what is on the screen looking straight on, any fellow commuters on your left or right aren’t able to sneak a peak at what you’re reading.

“Sharp’s DualView displays use parallax barrier technology which is very similar to that used in Sharp’s 3D displays, however, instead of creating a left eye and right eye view, the parallax barrier is much closer to the display so that it creates a left person and right person view”.

3D technology is an area that Sharp has pioneered, and still continues to develop, with its ultimate aim to create images that are indistinguishable from reality. Mather explains how they harnessed the principles behind the technology to achieve two simultaneous but very different images on one screen.

“Firstly, the parallax barrier in our DualView displays needs to be extremely close to the liquid crystal display (LCD) pixels – less than 100 micrometers (about the thickness of a piece of paper). The LCD is made from glass and so we need to work with layers of glass that are less than the thickness of a sheet of paper, and this requires some very special engineering. We tried to work around this problem in earlier designs by using micro-optics to increase the distance between the pixels and the dual view components but the thin glass engineering approach gave the best quality and so this is what we used”.

“Secondly, the DualView optics and panel electronics need to be very carefully designed because if just 0.5% of the light from one view somehow scatters or diffracts to the other view it can cause a noticeable ghost image. This affect is much more noticeable in DualView systems than 3D systems.

Innovation becomes reality

Sharp released the world’s first DualView display in 2005 after just over four years of development. It’s an innovation of 3D and LCD technology that has established itself at the heart of modern car LCD screen design.

“Our displays have reached a level where they do what is asked of them well, but of course there is always room for improvement. Future designs might be more efficient, have a sharper transition between passenger and driver views, and perhaps a touch screen that knows who touched it.”

The Japanese Toyota Alphard was the first car manufacturer to feature the ‘dual view’ infotainment technology and since then, Range Rover, Jaguar and Mercedes have adopted the technology. However, Mather says it’s not simply a future gazing gimmick but rather a functional design that can potentially help save lives.

We had no firm idea as to what the best method of achieving the display was or if it was even possible

He says, “It’s a convenient technology for satellite navigation which makes me a much better driver as it minimises those last minute lane changes.  A DualView display saves space which is at a premium on modern car dashboards.  The ideal place for passenger entertainment is already reserved for the airbag, however, DualView enables entertainment to be positioned in the central console without inducing temptation for the driver to peak, whilst also serving a sat-nav function which does not obstruct the view through the windshield as some retrofit devices do.”

The invention that begun life as an impossible task is now a staple among high end car manufacturers, while it may also be used on advertising hoardings, shopping malls in America, department stores and cash machines.

It just goes to prove, a new innovation might be right before your eyes.


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  • http://www.electronicdisplays.com/ Dennis @ Digital Timers

    This is a cool technology, although I dont like the idea of having drivers staring at a screen rather than the road. It’s already distracting enough to have a little 4″ gps mounted on the windshild.

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