Market Watch

Universal Standard in Sight for 3D TV Glasses?

October 01, 2010

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The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) in the US has called on TV manufacturers to support a universal standard for active shutter 3D glasses to minimise consumer confusion over the new technology and boost take-up. The organisation's R4 WG16 working group has been working with CE companies, including Sony and Samsung, to develop a standard for infra-red active shutter glasses and hopes to release the first draft specification in November 2010, with a view to it being adopted by manufacturers early in 2011.

Active shutter 3D TVs from different manufacturers adhere to marginally different specifications in order to render 3D images, meaning that the glasses from one CE company are incompatible with the displays made by another. Although universal glasses, designed to work across multiple brands, have already been unveiled by Monster and Xpand, the first generation models are no cheaper than proprietary glasses. Screen Digest expects the price of active 3D glasses to fall rapidly over the next 12 months, increasing the number of pairs that can viably be bundled with compatible displays. The adoption of a common standard would open up production to third party manufacturers, further accelerating this process.   Meanwhile, the consensus at the recent 3D Summit held in Los Angeles was that within two to three years passive polarised (PP) displays - the glasses for which can already be produced very cheaply - are likely to become increasingly common in the home 3D environment. Not only does Screen Digest believe that this technology currently offers a better home 3D experience, but it is also gaining currency among consumers through initiatives like that of UK broadcaster Sky which has installed PP displays in more than 1500 pubs and clubs in the UK and Ireland for the screening of Premier League football matches in 3D. Ultimately, however, we do not believe that the price of glasses will prove a major barrier to 3D adoption; within the next few years we expect 3D chipsets to be included in every high-end display on the market, automatically driving take-up of 3D TVs, while the glasses (active as well as passive) will be priced at a level that makes owning several pairs for occasional use a viable proposition for most 3D TV owners.    Thus the real driver for growth in home 3D will not be the number of households with a 3D display, but rather the proportion of those homes that are fully 3D-enabled, ie, with access to both the requisite glasses and a 3D-capable set-top box, Blu-ray player or games console. At this point, of course, the quantity and quality of the 3D programming on offer through the various distribution channels (broadcast, on-demand, Blu-ray Disc) will be crucial to persuading consumers to fully enable their 3D TV - or, indeed, to take their 3D glasses out of the box!
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