CE Suppliers Look To Convert 3D Skeptics by Making 3D Ubiquitous

CES press-conference day featured plenty of new-product announcements, and, while “smart” TVs may have been a consistent hot topic, the 3D announcements suggested that 3D has some staying power. And a number of innovations are proving that some of the gating factors, such as expensive glasses, may eventually be a thing of the past.

“We’re taking an end-to-end approach that applies 3D technology to everything from 3D visual communications to 3D videoconferencing,” said Joe Taylor, chairman/CEO, Panasonic Corp. of North America.

According to Tim Baxter, president of Samsung Electronics America’s Consumer Electronics Division, Samsung expects 3D sales to grow sixfold in 2011. The company grabbed 70% of 3D sales in 2010 and is very optimistic about the future of 3D, he said, predicting, “3D will be in 60% of our TV lineup in. 2011.”

John Revie, SVP of Samsung’s consumer business division, said it is important to remember that 3D sales in 2010, which topped 1 million globally (with Samsung netting about 700,000 sales), exceeded those of other technologies, such as LED TVs, DVD players, and Blu-ray players.

“It’s on par with the sale of LED sets two years ago, and that was considered a success,” he added.

Panasonic will open a 3D Innovation Center in Hollywood next week, offering professionals a chance to learn about everything from 3D production and editing techniques to Blu-ray mastering. And five new 3D camcorders are on the way this year.

“The industry is also working to build a standard for compatible active-shutter eyewear,” said Taylor. “So that is a when, not an if. And when that happens, it will be transformative because interoperability will drive growth.”

Panasonic 3D intros included the VT30 full-HD 3D plasma sets (in 65- and 55-in. screen sizes); the Viera GT30 series full-HD 3D plasma sets (in 60, 55, and 50 in.) with built-in WiFi and the Viera Connect IPTV pack; and the company’s first 3D-capable LED edge-lit TVs (DT30 series) in 32- and 37-in. screen sizes (designed for gaming).

Panasonic’s new HDC-TM90 and HDC-SD90 3D camcorders feature a compact body and the ability to record video in 3D with the addition of Panasonic’s 3D Conversion Lens. Consumers can play back the 3D images or video on a Viera 3D set or a compatible 3D set or through an AVCHD-compatible player/recorder, such as Panasonic’s Blu-ray disc player.

Sony, too, embraced 3D across its product lines, including introduction of 3D Handycam and Bloggie cameras and Cybershot still cameras. “Imagine watching your child’s soccer game in 3D,” said Howard Stringer, Sony Corp. chairman/CEO/president, of an effort by Sony to make 3D “personal.”

Also in the coming months, Sony is expected to launch 3net, a 3D network it will launch alongside Discover and IMAX. “It will have native 3D content and is a significant step in providing 3D entertainment in the home,” Stringer added.

Phil Molyneux, president/COO of Sony Electronics in the U.S., said 27 new Bravia sets will have Internet connectivity and 3D capability. Top of the line is the DKL-55HX929, a 55-in. TV that can handle 3D programming. Other 3D products from Sony included the Vaio F Series laptop, the Handycam HDR-TD10 with full-resolution 3D (and a 3D viewing screen that doesn’t require glasses), and a Bloggie, the Flip-like camera, with 3D video capabilities priced at $250.

Sony is also taking steps towards 3D playback without the need to wear glasses. Topping this list? A 10.1-in. portable 3D Blu-ray player. VP Hiroshi Yoshioka introduced a 3D head-mounted display with separate display panels for the left and right eye. “That means no cross talk and a theater-like experience in a virtual screen,” he pointed out.

Also on display at the Sony booth were three prototype glassless displays. Yoshioka said there is no planned release date for retail versions, but the three models — a 56-in., a 46-in., and a 24.5-in. version — using OLED technology hint at a future product launch that overcomes a major gating factor for 3D growth: “It’s on Sony’s radar.”