Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and other HDTV manufacturers appear to be positioning themselves for new 3D movie technology introductions in 2010.
Several recent articles on consumer electronics web sites and news sites indicate that major television manufacturers are getting ready to introduce new 3D movie features for home theaters in 2010. At the 2009 Consumer Electronics show, we saw several HDTVs demonstrating 3D movie technology. Sony, Samsung and Panasonic each displayed 3D movie and gaming technology, but each used prototype televisions, not actual models ready for the market.
Samsung and Panasonic displayed 3D models using LCD shutter technology, which requires an emitter that synchronizes high speed LCD shutter glasses with alternating left-eye, right-eye images on an HDTV using a 120Hz or 240Hz refresh rate. Sony’s approach was different from that of the others, and they would not talk about the technology. Rather than using shutter technology, the Sony demonstration used polarized glasses from RealD. The speculation at the show was that Sony was using a dual-layer LCD display, or perhaps was alternating the polarization of the images on the screen. Both the LCD shutter technology and Sony’s top secret approach worked very well. The images were crisp and displayed great 3D depth without the ghosting problems that are common to the anaglyph 3D movie technology currently available for home viewing. Panasonic’s and Samsung’s LCD shutter technology was particularly impressive and was every bit as good as the RealD circular polarized technology found in movie theaters.
The technology to produce high quality 3D movies for home viewing is available today. What is holding things up is a standard for 3D movie technology. The industry obviously wants to avoid a technology war similar to the Blu-ray and HD DVD battles. A lot of companies were badly burned when they supported the wrong side of that debate. Several HDTV models from Mitsubishi and Samsung that are already available boast that they are 3D-ready, but that claim is questionable because no standard has been set.
A group called the 3D@Home Consortium and Korea’s 3D Fusion Industry Consortium recently announced that they have teamed up to form a 3D DVD home viewing standard. The 3D@Home Consortium has consumer electronics manufacturing members from Asia, USA and Europe, which makes them the ideal group to form a standard. In the USA, the Society for Motion Picture and Television Engineers is working on a standard to be used in the future for broadcasts. Because 3D broadcasts would require a lot of bandwidth that is not currently available in many areas, 3D broadcasting is probably several years away and will likely follow the standards set for DVD viewing.
Everyone could win if a standard is established that will work with standard HDTVs. The difficult part will be in adapting current HDTVs to use the new standard, or at least find a way to attach an emitter to current models so that shutter technology could be used to synchronize television images with wireless shutter glasses. If the new standard requires everyone to buy a new and expensive 3D HDTV, it will take many years before 3D home movies can become successful because most people will not replace newer LCD and plasma televisions just to gain 3D capabilities. The solution has to be fairly simple and not too expensive.
I suspect that we will see new 3D television models introduced at the upcoming January 2010 Consumer Electronics Show. The difference from last year will be that this time the manufacturers will likely have actual 3D HDTVs and devices that are ready for production.