Toshiba is to launch two autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 3D TVs in Japan in December 2010. A 12-inch model will retail for ¥120,000 ($1,450) and a 20-inch version for ¥240,000 ($2,920). Both TVs are based on LCD technology, can convert 2D images to 3D and have a 40 degree viewing angle. No plans for release in other territories have been confirmed at the time of writing. Toshiba also demonstrated a prototype 56-inch autostereoscopic 3D TV at CEATEC, the Japanese consumer electronics trade show this month (October).
Meanwhile, Sharp displayed prototype 3.8-inch and 10.6-inch autostereoscopic 3D TVs at CEATEC. The 3.8-inch model could be used in smartphones but no deals have been confirmed.
All standardised 3D capable input devices will be screen-agnostic, meaning that they will be compatible with all 3D TVs, regardless of the technology used to display the 3D image. Therefore, the availability of autostereoscopic 3D displays will have no repercussions for 3D BD players or 3D-capable TV set-top boxes as these will retain their compatibility. However, although a notable step for TV technology, the small screen size and high price of these early models confirm that autostereoscopic displays are still a long way from becoming a viable alternative to the glasses-based 3D TVs currently on the market.
One of the biggest issues limiting screen size is the requirement for the viewer to sit in a specific spot to fully experience the 3D image (eg, the 40 degree viewing angle cited by Toshiba). As screens become larger they must also allow for multiple viewers, each of whom must be able to see the optimum image, making the issue of viewing angles and position even more complex. As a result, Screen Digest anticipates that the launch of reasonably priced autostereoscopic 3D TVs over 40 inches is still a decade away.