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3D TV: Sure win or long shot?

Posted: 03 Nov 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:3D TV? Blu-ray? flat-panel display? LCD?

If a panel at a display conference is any indication, the possibility of 3D entertainment in the home is a foregone conclusion, at least if you believe Japan consumer electronics giants such as Sony and Panasonic.

More accurately, 3D is a matter of survival for these companies, whose two-dimensional sales continue to decline.

At FPD International 2009, top executives promoting Blu-ray systems!from Panasonic and Sony, respectively!made clear that they are ready for a 2010 launch of full HD 3D-equipped Blu-ray players and matching 3D TV sets.

The new 3D Blu-ray format, whose standardization is scheduled to finish at the end of this year, will use two 1920 x 1080p full HD resolution frames, one for the right eye and another for the left eye. 3D disks will maintain backward compatibility with 2D Blu-ray players, so that new disks can be played back in 2D on current Blu-ray hardware.

While there will be a single standard for 3D Blu-ray disks and players, the market is likely to see fragmented 3D display technologies on new 3D TV sets.

Different formats
To further complicate matters, broadcasters who want to reach mass audiences for the minimum investment in infrastructure, hope to offer 3D programs in a format different from the 120Hz, full-HD frame sequential method adopted by the Blu-ray Disc Association, according to Ikuo Matsumoto, executive director at Fujiwara-Rothchild, a 3D market research firm based in Tokyo.

Some satellite operators and pay TV companies plan to use a so-called "half-HD" format, which crams two pictures!left eye and right eye!in one frame. There are various "half-HD" methods, because the information going to each eye can be arranged in "line by line," "top and bottom," side by side" or "checker sampling" configurations.

Speculation abounds in Japan over whether Blu-Ray promoters, who are also leading large-screen TV manufacturers, are willing to offer multi-format 3D TV sets. But so far, they're all mum on their 3D TV strategies.

However, Masayuki Kozuka, general manager of the storage devices business strategy office at Panasonic Corp., hinted that Panasonic 3D TV will be adapted to broadcast by allowing "side by side" signals. Such signals will then convert to frame-sequential by using special circuitry inside TV sets, he said.

Akira Shimazu, general manager of BD strategy at Sony Corp., agreed that Sony has similar strategies.

It is not clear what other 3D technologies will be incorporated into these companies' 3D sets, however. But one thing is clear: the adoption of Xpol stereoscopic 3D technology is "unlikely," indicated Kozuka.

Xpol 3D, developed by Arisawa Manufacturing Co., is an optical device based on a micro-polarizer. By bonding it to a flat-panel display, such as LCD, users can view flicker-free 3D stereoscopic content simply by wearing cheaper polarizer glasses, claimed the Japanese company.

Kozuka, however, complained that the Xpol filter on 3D TV could limit viewing angles for consumers.

Market researcher Matsumoto stressed that a multi-format 3D TV is "ideal" for broader 3D market adoption, but integration of a host of new 3D technologies could result in a cost-prohibitive product, because of the variety of intellectual property involved.

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