In one of the funnier moments of Sunday's Academy Awards, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin thought they spotted Avatar director James Cameron in the audience. The hosts whipped out 3-D glasses to scan the audience for the man whose top-grossing film has fueled more interest in 3-D viewing.
While the gag got some laughs, it may not be unusual for more people to carry around 3-D glasses this year. All the top manufacturers are planning 3-D television models.
And on Wednesday, Panasonic and Best Buy will kick off a partnership to put more of the struggling Japanese electronics manufacturer's TV sets in U.S. living rooms.
While neither company had posted a news release about the venture as of Monday afternoon, The Wall Street Journal said Monday that Panasonic hopes to revive flagging sales of its plasma sets with the 3-D push, and will offer a large discount for its 50-inch model at $2,500. The same set sells for about $4,800 in Japan. Best Buy will add more than 1,000 display centers in its stores to highlight the experience, the report said.
Panasonic, which trails Samsung, LG Electronics, and Sony in worldwide TV sales, unveiled its VT25 3-D set at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. That set comes with a battery-operated pair of glasses with shutters that create the 3-D effect, unlike previous 3-D technology that relied on color filters and glasses with red and blue lenses.
A Tough Sell?
But with the economy still teetering precipitously, is this a good time for new luxury goods?
"Absolutely," said Avi Greengart, a consumer devices specialist at Current Analysis. "Vendors are always searching for premium features that keep them from competing solely on cost. While it is true that unemployment is high and there is still a stigma attached to extravagant luxuries, a $2,500 price tag hardly seems outrageous -- in fact, it is not much of a premium over any other top-of-the-line flat-panel TV."
Greengart conceded, however, that families having to spend what could be hundreds of dollars above the TV price for 3-D glasses -- imagine kids fighting for both the remote control and the glasses -- is "definitely an issue."
While 3-D studio features and games are likely to proliferate after the box-office successes of Avatar and Disney's Up!, which also had a 3-D version, the movement to the small screen has been slow.
Disney plans to release some Blu-ray titles, including A Christmas Carol and Alice In Wonderland in 3-D, and the Discovery Channel, in partnership with Sony and IMAX, is planning the first 24-hour 3-D channel, likely to launch in 2011. ESPN has also talked about a 3-D channel. But Greengart said those who rush to be first on the block with a 3-D set may be bored for a while.
"I am not yet convinced that there is enough 3-D content available to justify being an early adopter, and the 3-D viewing experience -- which requires glasses and undivided attention -- does not always match the way consumers watch TV at home," he said. But he added that the technology has reached a turning point and consumers have shown interest.
"This is definitely an auspicious window for vendors who want to get out in front of technology trends and see if they can build a market," he said.
The Journal, citing research from DisplaySearch, said 1.2 million 3-D sets are likely to ship this year -- a huge boost from 200,000 last year.
Posted: 2010-03-08 @ 2:24pm PT
Why is it that the 3-D movies all have a dark picture quality. If you take your glasses off the picture is much brighter. Will there be improvements in that area?
Posted: 2010-03-08 @ 2:17pm PT
My daughter is telling me to wait before I buy one because there isn't enough content. So even though I was an early adopter in HD I'm not going to be one in 3-D.