It’s no secret that 3D has been a disappointment for TV manufacturers, at least in the U.S. market. At CES last week, Samsung devoted more booth space to plasma than it did to 3D.
But LG Electronics was the exception. At LG’s big press conference at CES, company CTO Skott Ahn emphasized that his company’s 3D smart TV had received major improvements for 2012. The new LG-developed L9 chip set includes a quad-core CPU, which will be used in LG’s premium line. L9 will help deliver improved 2D-to-3D conversion, 3D depth control, and 3D sound zooming.
Ahn also said that LG would introduce auto-stereoscopic, single-viewer eye-tracking displays in some laptop PCs and monitors. On the following day, samples were exhibited on the show floor, and provided the good 3D effect and easy viewability we have come to expect from well-engineered eye-tracking displays.
Tim Alessi, LGE’s Director of New Product Development for Home Entertainment Products, said of LGE’s aggressive marketing of passive-glasses 3D-TV, "Does this make us passive aggressive? No. But we are aggressive about passive." LG obviously feels that they have the hot 3D-TV technology of the moment: passive polarized glasses working with a film patterned retarder (FPR) on the LCD glass carefully aligned with respect to the pixel rows. FPR market share is growing rapidly, despite coming to market only in the middle of last year. LG’s 3D sales passed Sony’s months ago, said Alessi, "and Samsung is in our sights." Subsequently, it was reported that FPR market share is currently about 30% and growing.
The extent of LG’s commitment to 3D was apparent the next day when the exhibits opened in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Central Hall. Two arrays of 20×7 47-inch FPR 3D-TVs, plus a connection section, formed a huge wall over an opening leading into LG’s exhibit area. Passive 3D glasses were energetically offered to anyone who came by, and a sizeable crowd blocked the corridor for most of the show (see photo).
For part of the elaborate production, a single 3D image was formed over the entire wall, and the passive glasses created a seamless 3D image. (That is, the mullions between the individual screens were visible, but the 3D illusion was the same no matter where one looked, which was one of the points LG wanted to make.)
Even LG’s 55-inch AMOLED-TV prototypes were 3D, with both 2D and 3D images being shown. A booth rep told Display Daily that all 55-inch AMOLED-TVs produced will include the film patterned retarder and will therefore be 3D capable.
There is good reason for the ascendency of FPR over shutter glasses, but the Holy Grail for 3D is no glasses at all. I have been unimpressed with AS-3D I have seen, but Toshiba has promised a commercial set this year, and prototypes were on display. Toshiba is pulling out the stops, using a 4Kx2K screen to keep a higher resolution with 3D images, and head tracking for easy viewability for one viewer. If head tracking is kept on with multiple viewers, the system tracks the center-most viewer, and everybody else has to find his own viewing zone. If the central viewer moves…. (Toshiba recommends that head-tracking be turned off for multiple viewers.)
Is Toshiba’s AS-3D solution ready for prime time? Most display-heads said not yet, but many dealers and end-users seemed ready to put their money down. In fact, it wasn’t bad at all, and much better than I expected.
So the window for glasses-type 3DTVs is still open, but it will only be open for a limited time. LG is committed to making the most of it.