Just when you thought you had HDTV figured out, here comes another wrinkle. Many companies at the Society for Information Display conference in San Francisco this week were showing panels that can display 3D images. Some were like the ColorLink designs that use polarized light and required special glasses to see the 3D image. Others used parallax barriers to present a different image to the left eye than the right, so you don’t need glasses. There were small no-glasses models for cell phones and other mobile devices. And Philips showed a 42″ 1080p LCD panel with eye-popping 3D effects with no goggles, using a special lenticular lens coating.

The question is whether or not anyone needs 3D. The Philips display is intended initially for digital signage applications; a store’s products can appear to fly out at you as you walk by. And gamers certainly will be interested; most computer games already carry 3D display content within them.

But I suspect that the market for 3D flat panels will remain small for some time to come. I don’t think that most buyers are even aware of 3D possibilities, let alone wondering about whether or not they want it. Outside of mobile phones in the Japanese market, I expect that it will be a long time before we see 3D displays make significant inroads in the main market segments.