If there was a surprise for me at CES 2008 this year, it was the number of companies pursuing 3D HDTV. It’s a reasonable strategy on two counts. First, these sets will be more expensive (simply because there’s more stuff and production costs in them), but it also is an opportunity to get better margins and be more profitable. Also, it’s a way to differentiate your product line in a time when it’s getting harder and harder to be different in any practical way.
Samsung and others have had 3D capabilities built into their rear-projection HDTVs for quite a while, but now flat panels also are getting in the act. SpectronIQ has a line of LCD HDTVs in 32″, 42″, and 47″ sizes that should be available next month. A company named ZALMAN was showing 3D LCD monitors in 19″, 22″, and 32″ sizes, but ship dates were not available. Pavonine is another company with a 3D LCD product; the 32″ G320S is a high-end monitor aimed at professional applications such as medical imaging. And Samsung was demonstrating a plasma HDTV that showed 3D images.
The LCD models required polarized glasses in order to sort out the left and right images. These look like plastic sunglasses with very little tint. The Samsung plasma (as well as the rear projection models) use glasses with LCD shutters; these are a bit larger and heavier, but still easy to wear.
Aside from the professional niche applications, the most likely customers for these new 3D panels will be gamers. The three-dimensional information is already in the games; it’s been a standard feature in computer games for at least 10 years. Gamers also spend money on their systems, and like to have any advantage that they can get. After gaming, the next most likely target is for watching 3D movies at home. As the number of movie theaters with 3D capabilities grow, movie goers will become more accustomed to seeing films in 3D. Many animated films come in 3D, and some live action titles are in development that will be shot in 3D. People will want to be able to have the same experience in their homes, though whether there will be enough of them to support this new market segment remains to be seen.