The Consumer Electronics Show hasn’t gotten underway yet, but a ton of new 3DTVs are sure to be on display. While some analysts describe sales of 3D-enabled TVs as strong, comparing them favorably to the initial HDTV roll-out, not everyone agrees. (Research firm Futuresource Consulting claimed worldwide sales would hit 4 million in 2010, outpacing early sales of HDTVs, but Best Buy reported lousy sales of TVs across the board as a big contributor to same-store sales decreases in the fiscal quarter ending November 27.) Some manufacturers are trying to appeal to consumers by improving the 3D experience. (Pictured at the top of this page is one of Vizio’s new-at-CES 3D-capable Cinemawide screens, with a CinemaScope-like aspect ratio of 21:9.)
For example, Reuters says Toshiba intends to ship no-glasses-required 3D sets this year. I’m all for getting rid of those glasses, which are a bigger nuisance in the living room than in the movie theater, but the glasses-free lenticular screens I’ve seen are so finicky in terms of the required viewing angles — the 3D effect requires on a fairly restricted positioning of the viewers’ eyes — that I can’t imagine them taking off for home theaters this year. Maybe the second- and third-generation versions will do better.
Popular Mechanics mentions an in-development Toshiba system that uses a laptop’s webcam to track your eyeballs, dynamically adjusting the computer’s screen to provide proper 3D viewing based on your position, and speculates that Microsoft’s popular Xbox Kinect sensor could be used to similar effect in the living room.
Samsung, meanwhile, is trying to refine the current generation of glasses-based playback systems. Teaming with RealD on a new 3D display technology called RDZ, Samsung is planning to build LCD sets that move the active-shutter switching system from the 3D eyeglasses to the 3D display. The companies say the new sets will avoid decreases in resolution or image brightness that can be introduced by other 3D viewing processes, and the 3D image can be viewed with the same glasses handed out at RealD-equipped movie theaters.
The RDZ system sounds good, but the industry isn’t putting up a very united front. The format for 3D content on Blu-ray may be settled, but any consumer who got burned by investing early in HD DVD software or (horrors!) the Sony Betamax will think twice about buying a new 3D HDTV as long as new developments — like glasses-free screens and RDZ-style displays — are being touted as major advances. If it smells like a format war …
Finally, CES doesn’t always break fanboy news, but this year Star Wars geeks are buzzing about an announcement slated to take place Thursday at the Panasonic booth. Presumably it will be some kind of official announcement of the highly anticipated Blu-ray Disc boxed set of the Star Wars saga — but with 3D pioneer Panasonic involved, there’s some speculation about the long-in-gestation 3D versions of all six films being included in the package, perhaps as an Avatar-style vendor exclusive. (If you wanted to see Avatar at home in 3D last year, you had to either buy some Panasonic hardware or troll eBay for an aftermarket copy of the disc.)
Stay tuned — we’ll continue to round up relevant 3D news from CES as the show gets under way later this week.
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