Hacked LCD Shutter Glasses See The Light

It’s always a little sad to see a big consumer technology fail. But of course, the upside for us hacker types is that the resulting fire sale is often an excellent source for hardware that might otherwise be difficult to come by. The most recent arrival to the Island of Unwanted Consumer Tech is 3D TV. There was a brief period of time when the TV manufacturers had nearly convinced people that sitting in their living room wearing big dorky electronic glasses was a workable solution, but in the end we know how it really turned out.

Those same dorky glasses are now available for a fraction of their original price, and are ripe for hacking. [Kevin Koster] has been playing around with them, and he’s recently came up with a circuit that offers the wearer a unique view of the world. Any reflective surface will look as though it is radiating rainbows, which he admits doesn’t show up as well in still images, but looks cool enough that he thought it was worth putting the board into production in case anyone else wants in on the refraction action.

To explain how it works, we need to take a couple of steps back and look at the mechanics of the LCD panels used in these type of glasses. At the risk of oversimplification, one could say that LCDs are sort of like capacitors: when charged the crystals align themselves in such a way that the polarization of the light passing through is changed. Combined with an external polarization filter, this has the end result of turning the panel opaque. To put the crystals back in their original arrangement, and let the light pass through again, the LCD panel is shorted out in the same way you might discharge a capacitor.

What [Kevin] found was that if he slowly discharged the LCD panel rather than shorting it out completely, it would gradually fade out instead of immediately becoming transparent. His theory is that this partial polarization is what causes the rainbow effect, as the light that’s passing through to the wearers eyes is in a “twisted” state.

[Kevin] has provided all of the information necessary to build your own “Rainbow Adapter”, but you can also purchase a kit or assembled board from Tindie. If you’re looking for other projects to make use of those 3D glasses collecting dust, how about turning them into automatic sunglasses or having a go at curing your lazy eye.

14 thoughts on “Hacked LCD Shutter Glasses See The Light

    1. I’m with you too. I also assumed it would reach the PC, and our UIs would have it… bridging the gap between flat-space and VR. Instead VR comes along as a “Secondary purpose-specific display.” There’s no using a computer in VR… only using VR on a computer. As a Linux desktop user since about ’94, Windows is only for gaming and programming things that don’t have Linux drivers, I change the way my UI works and can see several ways that 3d effects could help with focus and usability. Having skipped the 3d-glasses stage the VR-Desktop is now even further out on the timeline sitting somewhere near the flying cars and jet packs.

      1. +1

        I doubt any of the major companies are going to invest in this unless it’s for very specific application types (embedded, MIL, etc).

        I hope to see someone write a VR window manager for Linux. It won’t be me…but I can dream. Then we can all finally fly around that sweet sweet Gibson with Crash and Burn.

      2. It did reach the PC. Long before it reached the TV. In fact it was already dying off as a fad before the 3D TV craze because all the PC companies were going LCD which couldn’t handle the refresh rate necessary at the time. A set of wired or IR controlled glasses, a dongle that intercepted a sync signal from your VGA cable and some drivers was all that was needed to turn any PC into a 3D stereo vision display.(120hz CRT monitor highly recommended) I spent hours in Deus Ex, Sol Ascent and Combat Flight Simulator with my geek glasses on. A few graphics cards came bundled with them but the marketing never seemed to be targeted outside of hardcore gamers, so it never really took off. There was also some limited 3D movie content, but it was almost all rehashed old Hollywood 3D films. I still have them and plan to setup a Win2K retro gaming rig with them at some point, but that’ll have to wait until I come across another 120hz CRT!

        1. I still have a pair of very uncomfortably wired Asus shutterglasses. It came bundled with my “deluxe” version graphics card and plugged into a 3.5mm port at the back. Pretty cool effect in some games (Q3 arena). Required a monitor capable of at least 120hz, which was no problem for my chepo 17″ crt. They are from around 1999-2000 something. Made me smile a bit when they tried to sell the same tech in tv’s yeeeears later…

  1. Why would someone want to hack a cool pair of 3D glasses for a dorky chromatic aberration effect? Much better to hack them for a VR use, which keeps the original stereoscopic imaging. Stereoscopic 3D imaging is far superior to the squashed flattened down 2D images that most people put up with.

    1. Hey, don’t knock it! It’s a Treasure Hunting tool. You may not be able to get close to the end of the rainbow, but dammit, you sure can get the rainbows to come closer…! Now, where’s that leprechaun repellent…

  2. Glasses like this could be combined with camera watching AI to scan for anything “disturbing” and instantly go dark before the wearer notices it, helping the wearer “stay cool” (just like Zaphod Beeblebrox’s stay-cool sunglasses) It should also work nicely for snowflakes to prevent those unsightly temper tantrums. :-)

  3. If you carefully sequence this behavior so your brain can get used to what polarization-rotation-angle each step represents, I wonder if you could gain another “channel” of visual acuity.

    Look out, Mantis Shrimp! We’re catching up!

  4. Thats a badass hack, please document it Nate B ! I have a pair here which are damaged (stuffed battery) but otherwise look intact.
    I think it might be worth adding thermal feedback as well, the LCD parameters are known to change with temperature.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.