A single 3-D glasses standard might help 3-D TVs catch on
With 3-D TV sales not meeting their grandest expectations, set makers have decided it's better to stand together, then fall apart. They're now rallying behind a standard for 3-D active shutter glasses, though the fruits of their "Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative" will not be savored by consumers until sometime next year.
As it currently stands, active shutter glasses sold to work with a Panasonic set will not be useful if you've taken 'em over to a friend's house to watch, say a ESPN 3-D basketball game, and he's showing it off on a Samsung or Sony 3-D set. This incompatibility is a major turn off for customers (as is the price of the battery-powered shutter glasses - now looming between $50 and $130) when they go shopping for a new set.
Adding more insult to injury is the confusion caused when the salesman starts pitching that there's another way to do 3-D TV - with "passive" (battery-free) polarized 3-D glasses that don't "blink" at you (alternately opening/closing left and right LCD lenses, in synch with the picture).
LG, Vizio and Westinghouse are now pushing 3-D sets with passive glasses and hail the experience as "superior." Yes, the glasses are lighter and the pictures look a bit brighter (in part because the glasses aren't as tinted). Plus, there's no battery recharging or replacement to worry about. But the image resolution with passive technology is compromised - bringing back the visible black scanning lines in even a 3-D Blu-ray movie presentation that we thought was a thing of the analog TV past. Oh, and image resolution with passive 3-D is cut even more when watching 3-D channels on cable and satellite. But the good news is, if your kid sits on a pair of passive glasses and crushes them, you can get another set for $5, or just use the ones you picked up for free at a RealD or Disney 3D movie presentation.
Earlier this month, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and movie/home theater glasses maker xPand 3D announced their mutual support of the initiative. Now, four more manufacturers have climbed on-board - Royal Philips, Sharp, TCL Corporation (RCA brand in the U.S.) and Toshiba.
Their goal is to produce standardized active shutter glasses that are triggered by a 3-D TV via Bluetooth (radio frequency) signals. Today, only Samsung produces such glasses/sets - and also can boast of having the lightest model of rechargeable glasses, the SSG-3700CR.
The rest of the "Full HD/Active Shutter Glasses" camp deploy infrared light signaling from the TV set that can mess up momentarily when someone walks between a glasses-wearer and the TV. Worse - IR glasses often perform badly and strobe erratically under the fluorescent lights in stores. That gives would-be buyers a great reason to walk away, convinced 3-D "stinks" and "gives me a headache."
Hopefully, if most TV makers are soon producing 3-D glasses to the same spec, the price per pair will come way down, eliminating another bone of contention. At present, the plan is that these standardized 3-D glasses also will be backwards compatible with current IR-signaled 3-D TVs in some fashion. I'll believe that when I see it. So called "Universal 3-D" glasses currently available from xPand and Monster have not proven idiot- (or even smarty-) proof.
(c)2011 the Philadelphia Daily News
Distributed by MCT Information Services