Toshiba Will Offer No-Glasses 3-D TVs with Large Screens
Having to wear glasses in your living room to enjoy 3-D TV has been a major stumbling block for that technology. Toshiba announced Wednesday that it will be launching at this year's Consumer Electronics Show the solution to that problem -- large-screen, glasses-free 3-D TVs.
The LCD sets, described by the company as "the world's first commercialized LCD TVs that do away with dedicated glasses," are being shown in 65- and 56-inch prototypes. Called the "glasses-less 3D REGZA GL1," the sets are currently available on the market in Japan in 20- and 12-inch models.
Nine Parallel Images
Glasses-free models will be marketed outside of Japan in fiscal 2011, starting in April, the company said. It expects its overall TV sales to increase by a third, including glasses-free 3-D, to about 20 million units. This would bring the company's share of the North American market to about 10 percent, a two percent increase.
While specific details of how Toshiba accomplishes this technological feat are not being released, the company has said it uses an integral imaging system and a perpendicular lenticular sheet that creates a "smooth, natural image." A proprietary image-processing technology creates nine parallel images from the original TV content, from which it assembles the 3-D effect.
At CES, Toshiba's head of visual products, Atsushi Murasawa, told news media that the models to be launched will be one more than 50 inches and one more than 40. While he indicated sales will begin in the U.S., Europe and China, there was no indication of price points or specific launch dates.
Prices in Japan for the smaller models are steep, about $1,400 for the 12-inch model and about $2,800 for the 20-incher.
The LCD screens for the smaller models sold in Japan are manufactured by the company, although it said it will need to work with an outside supplier to make the larger screens. Toshiba isn't abandoning glasses-required sets, as it also sells those.
'Important Evolutionary Step'
Toshiba is also offering a glasses-free 3-D laptop, which some reviewers have found to be not quite ready for prime time, with a clunky screen carrying an extra rectangular box attached to the LCD and issues with viewing angles.
Glasses-free 3-D video is also moving into other devices. The Nintendo 3DS portable gaming console will go on sale in March, and there are reports of a 3-D phone from Sharp. But questions about the quality of TV viewing for large families, as well as health issues, remain. Nintendo is accompanying its 3DS unit with a note that it should not be used by children aged six and under, because of possible vision-development problems.
Michael Gartenberg, research director and analyst at Gartner, called the new Toshiba large-screen sets "an important evolutionary step" in the 3-D technology, but added that there "still needs to be a lot of work done" before consumers will get excited.
A key drawback for the Toshiba sets, he noted, is that they are optimized for three viewing angles, "which will require owners to say 'sit here' and 'sit here.'"
Gartenberg pointed out that many American consumers bought a large-screen HD set within the last year or two, and would have to be highly motivated to replace it. He predicted that the major "next trend in TV" to watch at CES this year is not 3-D, but more TVs that can be connected to the Internet.