If you dread having to locate 3-D glasses as well as the remote control just to watch a TV program, Toshiba may have the solution. The electronics giant has announced it will begin selling in December what it described as the first glasses-free 3-D TV sets. At the moment, the launch is only for Japan, and no plans have been announced for selling the TVs in other countries.
The glasses-free 3-D Regza line includes two models, in 20 inches and 12 inches. Each uses a lenticular sheet on the screen to create nine overlapping images, and the images are then adjusted by image processing within the set to correct for artifacts like blurring. According to news reports, the effect is comparable to that used in Nintendo's upcoming glasses-free 3DS handheld gaming console, which is expected to be released by February.
The Viewing Zone
The Toshiba models incorporate the powerful, multimedia-capable Cell microprocessor, best known as the brains inside Sony's PlayStation console.
One trade-off for not wearing glasses is that you need to sit in the "viewing zone." Toshiba's recommendation is 35 inches from the 20-inch set and 25 inches from the 12-incher, both within a 40-degree angle. A 56-inch model is in the works, and prices have not been announced.
If glasses-free 3-D becomes a major competitor to glasses-required 3-D TVs, such as the those from Sony and Panasonic, it could become a marketing battle over whether you want to watch 3-D TV without glasses, or whether you want a wider choice of sitting locations in a room.
The other major drawback to 3-D TV is good content, but that is beginning to change. Sky TV last week launched the first 3-D-only TV channel, Virgin has launched a 3-D movie channel, and other networks have 3-D projects in the works.
But the payoff for manufacturers could be substantial. According to industry research firm iSuppli, 3-D TV sales could grow to nearly 80 million units annually by 2015, which would be about 40 percent of the market.
Toshiba's development of glasses-free TV sets has been known since August, when the company confirmed it was working on such technology, although it declined at that time to say if the products would be released in 2010.
3-D sans glasses is beginning to emerge, especially in light of consumer surveys showing that about half of potential 3-D TV customers are turning away from the technology because they don't want to deal with wearing glasses to watch TV. Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute has also raised questions about the glasses' safety in long-term use. ITRI demonstrated a 42-inch, glasses-free 3-D LCD TV in May, and a company executive said it can manufacture such sets up to 65 inches.
Glasses-free 3D technology is also coming from such companies as PureDepth, which achieves the effect by using two layers of glass. However, some issues have been reported with that approach, including cost, thickness and fewer objects "popping out" in front of the screen.