Next-gen 3D TVs ditch clunky glasses, headaches

22:04, Jan 05 2011
A woman wears 3-D glasses while watching a television during the 2010 CES event in Las Vegas.
LOOKING AHEAD: A woman wears 3-D glasses while watching a television during the 2010 CES event in Las Vegas.

3D TVs may finally be palatable for the mainstream with new models due out this year that include cheap, lightweight glasses which don't need charging, reduce headaches and cost less than $20.

The big TV manufacturers are showing off the next evolution of 3D technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

TV makers are estimated to have sold about one million 3D TVs globally so far, a third of what they were expecting. The clunky glasses have been revealed as the main pain point putting people off.

Soon, 3D TV viewers won't need glasses at all with manufacturers including LG and Toshiba unveiling prototype models that contain all the 3D smarts in the TV itself. However, these models are further away from being in stores and the lack of glasses brings about new issues such as the loss of the 3D effect if you move your head too much or are in the wrong position.

LG kicked off the 3D TV onslaught this morning, unveiling new models that use the same passive glasses handed out in movie cinemas. These replace the active shutter LCD glasses of the previous generation that cost $100 or more, need to be recharged and must be synchronised with the TV, creating an annoying, headache-inducing flicker effect.

"It's going to be the most comfortable 3D viewing experience, just like going to the movies. The glasses themselves are lighter - less than 20g - and less expensive, less than $20, so that you'll be able to provide glasses for all your friends and family to come and have a 3D movie night," said Tom Alessi, LG's director of new product development.

He said four sets of glasses would be provided with each TV and there would be no perceived loss of resolution or flicker. The passive glasses are far less bulky and, unlike the active shutter glasses of today's models, can be used across different brands of TV.

But those who already bought in to the first generation of 3D TVs will likely be frustrated that their shiny new technology is already on the way out.

Sony isn't as enthusiastic about the new passive 3D technology. Sony Australia's technology communications manager, Paul Colley, said image quality would be half that of the existing line of active shutter 3D TVs.

"3D has to be a good quality experience for it to be compelling ... those passive 3D TVs aren't full HD 3DTVs, so you degrade the quality of the image straight away ," he said in an interview.

"And because you also have to put the polarised layer on the TV screen itself you end up degrading the 2D quality as well.

"The only real benefit of passive 3D is that the glasses become a bit more portable but it deteriorates the quality of both the 3D and 2D image."

Colley said the glasses-free 3D TVs, similarly, were not of a high enough standard as viewing angles were extremely limited. He said Sony's ultimate goal was to create a glasses-free 3D TV but would only do so if it could maintain image quality.

3D TVs are also getting bigger, with Mitsubishi showing off a 92-inch model that uses the older active shutter glasses technology. Sharp, meanwhile, showed a 70-inch version.

At its press conference LG also unveiled its new internet-connected TV platform dubbed "smart TV". The new platform, available on its big screen TV and Blu-ray player lines this year, provides access to more video on-demand content providers, a slew of TV apps and a simpler user interface.

Some of the models come with a new "magic motion remote" which contains just six buttons. Pointing the remote at the screen brings up a mouse-like cursor that can be used to more easily select menus and options.

LG will also sell a small box that can be connected via HDMI to any existing TV, giving it "smart" TV features such as the ability to access content from the internet and browse the web. This will pit LG against Apple TV and Google TV.

But it's not just TVs that are connected to the internet - the exhibitors at CES want every appliance in your house to be a "smart" appliance that connects to the net and can communicate with its owner by sending them text messages.

LG showed off a range of Wi-Fi-enabled washing machines, fridges, vacuum cleaners and ovens. They are all able to be controlled remotely via smartphones and tablets.

"With our robotic cleaners you can view a chart of your home that the cleaner has created as well as view a live video feed from the cleaner's onboard camera," said Skott Ahn, LG's president and chief technology officer.

The LG smart ovens are able to download recipes from the internet and send the owner a text message when their roast is done, while the smart fridge can send a shopping list to the user via SMS and also warn them when any food is about to expire.

Two new smartphones were unveiled by LG at CES, including the Optimus 2X which it says is the world's first smartphone with a dual-core processor and is able to play back full high-definition 1080p video. Meanwhile, the Optimus Black is thinner than an iPhone 4 at 9.2mm and has what LG describes as "the world's brightest display".


Sydney Morning Herald