3-D television coming to a home near you

Television viewers could find themselves able to watch movies in three dimensions as soon as 2010, as television manufacturers showed off a variety of three dimensional prototypes at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week.

At the show, Panasonic Corp. demonstrated a plasma screen that could display animated movies and footage from the Olympics in high-definition 3-D. The television switched between images for the left and right eye extremely quickly, while viewers had to wear battery-powered glasses that alternately blacked out the view for each eye, allowing the viewer to see the picture in three dimensions.

Samsung Electronics Co., Sony Corp. and LG Electronics Inc, the remaining three of the top four TV manufacturers in the U.S, also had 3-D televisions at their booths.

According to the Associated Press, Richard Doherty, an analyst with Envisioneering Group, said that the industry's drive to make larger screens has run up against the limits of what people are willing to buy and that television manufacturers are needing to add something else in order to keep people interested in new TVs.

The industry however, needs a standard for 3-D broadcasts, if it is to avoid another format-war like the one between Blu-ray and HD-DVD, or VHS and Betamax. Fortunately, Panasonic hopes to solve that problem this year, by creating standards for television broadcasts as well as discs.

During an address at CES last Wednesday, Yoshi Yamada said, "Panasonic doesn't think that 3-D, full HD for the home is far away at all. We are discussing this now with other major manufacturers and Hollywood studios. But for 3-D, full HD systems to succeed, we know that there needs to be 3-D, full HD content."

Unfortunately, glasses are still a necessity of watching 3D television. Or are they? 3M Co. and Toshiba also showed off some 3-D screens at the show, but their screens did not require glasses for the 3-D effect. The technology is made possible by a thin film made by 3M, which can beam light selectively to the right and left eyes of the viewer. The idea behind the film is similar to the old postcards that could create a 3-D effect with a ribbed plastic covering, except the new film goes inside the screen and is invisible to the viewer.

Senior technology manager, William Bryan said that the film will be available this year and that if manufacturers are willing to adopt it, there could be 3-D capable mobile phones available by Christmas. Unfortunately, the technology is stuck at the chicken and egg stage - "The content people haven't been willing to do a lot of content because there have been no displays," said Bryan.

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