At an event in Boston yesterday, Panasonic demoed its latest 3-D product: a 50-inch, high-definition 3-D plasma-screen TV, which goes on sale next month for about $2,499. Donning a $150 pair of glasses in the darkened room, I watched scenes of waterfalls and hiking in 3-D that was clearer and crisper than anything I’ve seen in theaters. Without providing specific figures, Panasonic says it sold out of other 3-D TVs in the U.S. during the first week of sales.
Announcements from Panasonic and other major manufacturers, including Mitsubishi, Sony, Philips, and Toshiba, mean that consumers will soon be able to buy many different 3-D products: TVs, Blu-ray players, video games, even cameras and camcorders. A new Blu-ray standard for 3-D should also make it easier for companies to produce 3-D content that will play on all 3-D TVs.
“About 8 percent of the consumer televisions sold in the United States this year will be 3-D; next year that number will more than double,” says Robert Perry, senior vice president, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. Given that it took about eight years for high-definition television to catch on, Perry predicts that it “will take about four to five years for one half of all televisions sold in the United States to have 3-D capability. Then it will ramp up very quickly after that.”
Manufacturers hope that the popularity of 3-D movies can help push the technology into the home. “There is a heightened awareness of 3-D,” says Jonas Tanenbaum, vice president of marketing for LCD and LED TVs at Samsung, which this year is offering 15 3-D TV models on LED, LCD and plasma, ranging from $1,699 to $5,000.
However, some experts are more skeptical about the prospects for widespread adoption.
Research firm DisplaySearch predicts that there will be 1.2 million 3-D-capable TVs shipped this year and over four million next year, compared to the 200,000 shipped in 2009. Jennifer Colegrove, DisplaySearch’s director of display technologies, says that all of these 3-D TVs–which can be switched to a regular 2-D mode–will mainly be used for 2-D viewing for now. “Most people who buy a 3-D-ready TV will not really watch it,” she says. One drawback, Colegrove, says, is that some 3-D TVs don’t work well under fluorescent or halogen lighting (the light interferes with the infrared emitter that communicates between the TV and 3-D glasses).